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A Day in the Life with COPD

A Day in the Life with COPD

Hi, I am going to welcome you to my life for the day with the hope you will understand that you can still live a fairly normal life with COPD. First let me introduce myself to those of you who don’t know anything about me: I’m the 69-year-old woman who lives alone, I have stage 4 COPD compounded by Asthma, CHF, hereditary panic disorder and a few other things. I am maxed out on meds, and at this time there is no new medication, current procedure that will have any effect on my condition. According to all the doctors, I shouldn’t even be alive. But live I do and although it’s at a much slower pace and there are a lot of things I can’t do, I do what I can and don’t let my COPD control my life. “I am master of my life”. There are not as many pictures of me before and after the ones my step daughter Susan took as I’d like but, I have an old flip-open cell and I’m not use to taking selfies.

So let’s get our day started.

I wake up every morning between 7:30-8:30. Today when I look at the clock it’s 7:55. The first thing I do when I wake up, before I even opened my eyes, I said ” thank you God for seeing me through the night and blessing me with another day”, then I go to the bathroom. Next thing on my agenda is morning medication which consists of 2 pills my CFH, (chronic heart failure), Omeprazole for my GERD, Bisacodyl for my Irritable Bowel Syndrome and vitamin D , Brovana and Budesonide in my nebulizer for my COPD which takes me about 30 minute and Spiriva. This morning I’m extremely tired since I didn’t get to bed till three so I’ll lay back for a few minutes and think about what I have to do today. Well seems a few minutes turned into a few hours because now when I look at the clock it’s 10:30. Even though I got the extra rest I’m still tired, but my step daughter and grandson are coming over to take me out to lunch and do some shopping so I have to get up.

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Morning meds and me taking nebulizer treatment.

If I hadn’t fallen back to sleep, and wasn’t feeling so tired, I would have plenty of time to get washed, do my makeup and hair. Instead I barely have time to get dressed brush my teeth and comb my hair. You see getting dressed alone takes me at least 45 minutes. I have to rest in between each step I take when getting dressed. What is very normal for an average person something like taking off my nightgown, causes me to become SOB (short of breath), if I don’t stop and catch my breath before I put my bra and shirt on, I will become so SOB not only will my breathing stats drop, my heart rate escalates to a dangerous point. So this is what I do: take off my nightgown, rest for five minutes, put on my bra, rest 10 minutes, put on my top rest for five minutes – the cycles of do something then rest goes on the whole entire time I’m getting dressed or do anything at all. It is part of having severe COPD, you get used to it. I’ve learned over the years that doing things slowly and resting in between gets the job done with the least amount of SOB and stress.

Since I am already feeling tired, (which also comes with having COPD, you have your good days and your bad days), today I wear no makeup, and I have just run a comb through my hair. On good days I would never go out without makeup or a wig, and that is the first thing my grandson says when he sees me. First he thinks I don’t feel well enough to go and when I tell him I am going, he can’t believe I’m going out without a wig and makeup on. I let him know having the energy to go out with him and his mom means more to me than what I look like. Besides I knew I was going to do this article and give you all a look into my life, and I wanted you to see the real me. The way I look in the pictures is the way I look in everyday life no makeup and straggly hair.

Now that Michael and Susan are here, time to switch from my home oxygen unit onto my portable. Michael just got his learning permit and asks if he can drive the van, (we always go out in my van because it is equipped for my needs). I tell him if his mother says okay, it’s all right with me as long as he follows the rules of the road. Whenever I’ve gone out with Michael before I’ve driven. This time I can just sit back and rest while he drives. One other thing I did 15 minutes before I left the house, I took a Xanax. I always take a Xanax before I go out. No matter how low my oxygen get the Xanax keeps my nerves calm till I bring my oxygen level back up.

Switching to my portable tank.

​We drive to the restaurant and Michael did a really good job. He did have to back out of the parking spot twice and pull back in again but, he finally got it right. When I go into restaurants I always walk (instead of using my scooter), when we get inside I asked the hostess for the table closest to where I’m standing at that particular moment. By the time I walked into the restaurant I’m so SOB, I never have a problem with them accommodating me. Once we’re seated I order a drink then I use my oximeter to check my oxygen level, it’s at 86, I start pursed- lip breathing to bring it back up to where it should be, which for me is 95/96 at rest. 10 minutes later I’m back to where I should be, lunch ordered and enjoying a drink. Michael loves going out to lunch with me, I let him order anything he wants no restrictions (except he’s not old enough to drink alcohol). Lunch is very enjoyable and relaxed, we spend about an hour and a half having lunch and visiting before we head to shopping.

Checking my oxygen level, the rest are of Susan, Michael and I enjoying lunch. In the one where I’m pointing to my arm, I’m explaining to Michael why my arm is all bruised.

We’re going to the Dollar Tree, they have a selection of frozen food I like to get that can be cooked in a microwave or toaster oven and are packaged with one person in mind. However the Dollar Tree doesn’t have the shopping scooters, and when I asked Michael to get mine out of the van, we find out the battery’s dead. That means I’m going to have to walk around the store, that’s going to make our shopping trip twice as long. Because just like with the dressing, it’s go down an aisle stop and rest, reaching or getting something off the shelf stop and rest. When you have COPD as severe as mine, compounded by my CHF, every little thing you do make you SOB. When it’s just Michael and I he stays with me the whole time getting things off the shelves and out of the freezers. Today since I’m pushing the cart I do it myself and Susan is nearby if I need any help. The reason you don’t see Susan is because she is the one taking these pictures. While in the Dollar tree, Michael walks over to Kmart because he wants to get a Halloween costume for a school function. And as you can see from the pictures, I make out on my own just fine. I know my oxygen level is low, but I don’t check my stat in the store. The full impact of my breathing and walking around the store will not hit me till I get into my van and sit down. After we finished shopping and I go out to the van and get seated I take out my oximeter to check my stats, as the picture shows my oxygen level is at 73. It’s at times like these I’m thankful I took the Xanax before I left the house. When I go shopping alone, or when I have to drive, it takes me at least 15 minutes once I get in the van before I catch my breath enough to drive. Today I can just concentrate on bring my stats back up and let Michael drive us home.

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Shopping and checking my stats after getting in van.

Once I get back to the house, the hardest part of this whole day’s outing takes place. It is walking from my van up the steps into my apartment. The are only three steps I have to walk up, but I know walking up those steps are not only going to make me extremely SOB, but, send my heart into overdrive. I have to walk up one step at a time, putting both feet on one step before I can take the next. I also use the rail to help pull me up from one step to the next. Susan goes ahead of me and unlock and opens the door. When I go out alone I never lock my door, because by the time I get to the top landing I wouldn’t have the strength to unlock it. Once I get inside I collapse on the chair, (which is three steps from my front door). I have to calm my heart down before I even get out my oximeter to check my stats. The picture of me with my eyes closed and head up, that’s me praying to God for His help in getting my heart under control so I don’t go into cardiac arrest. The reality of COPD is very few people actually die from it. Most die of related diseases such as chronic heart failure. My praying brings me peace so I can get out my oximeter, check my oxygen stats, and I start pursed-lip breathing to bring up my oxygen level and my heart rate down. While working on my breathing and heart stats, Susan and Michael put away all my groceries. They know that the best thing to do is leave me alone till I catch my breath, so I can go to the bathroom, come out catch my breath again and start talking.

See how short the steps are, but when I get in the house I’m very SOB and my heart is pounding. So I say my prayer and with God’s help get my heart and breathing under control.

After about 20 minutes I’m back to normal again and Susan and I can have a visit while Michael puts the doors back on my bathroom cabinet that he took off and helped me paint a few days earlier. He has a hard time getting the knobs back on so he brings the door to me with the toolbox and I have to show him what to do.
After he gets done with the doors, he comes out wearing the Halloween costume he bought. He want me to see what he got with the money I “lent”, lol, him. He’s a big yellow banana, I get a big hug and I love you grandma, thanks grandma, he know I don’t ever make him pay me back.

Helping Michael with door, and a hug from the banana. Sitting in my favorite position relaxing.

It about six o’clock when Susan and Michael leave, so for the next hour and a half I do absolutely nothing but sit in my chair and relax and thank God for the good day I had. At 7:30 I go into my bedroom, take my nightly medication which consist of my two nebulizer medications and 81 mg aspirin. At eight o’clock I heat up a cheeseburger in the microwave, grab a glass of milk and a pudding cup for dinner. Then I watch the TV till about 10pm. I then go back to my bedroom and get on the computer and check my e-mail, get caught up on all the happenings on Facebook, do any writing like this article, and for relaxation play a few games. When I get tired I had only three steps to my bed then begins the routine of taking off my clothes and putting on my nightgown. The last thing I do before getting into bed is go to the bathroom.

When situated in bed I put my oxygen line into my non-invasive ventilating machine, (Bi-PAP), put on my mask, and say my nightly prayers. Today I say a special thank you to God that I didn’t have any panic attacks. Most of the time I do not fall asleep right away so I turn on my TV till I feel myself start to dose off, at which time I click the remote control button shutting off the TV, and my day ends.

I don’t always go out with other people, I often go out alone but the routine is basically the same. The one thing I forgot to mention was I always wear Depends when I go out, in case I lose control of my bladder. If I’m by myself and I have to go to the bank, or drugstore I make sure they have a window so I don’t have to get out of my car. When I go to a grocery store I only go to ones I know I can get a ride-around Scooter. If I go to a store and they have no handicapped parking spots available I don’t shop there that day. Not only will the walk be too far but, if all the handicapped parking spots are taken, they normally have no shopping scooters available. The only stores I will walk around are ones that are fairly small and not crowded. When I shop alone & have to bring in a lot of groceries, I have the store pack all the cold food in the orange canvas bag I’m carrying in one of the pictures. The rest of the groceries I leave in my van and either a neighbor helps me carry them in or Susan, Philip, or one of my grandsons come over and do it for me.

I have given you a pretty accurate view of what my days out are like, and even though I get short of breath, heart palpitations, and have to do everything at a snail’s pace and get lots of rest in between and a little help, I pretty much do what everybody else does. So don’t let having COPD causes you fear, stress, or anxiety where it stops you from living as normal a life as possible. My next article will be about day in my life at home. Breathe deep and easy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • matilda
    3 years ago

    Thanks, Mary, for sharing your story. Sounds like you enjoy life in spite of the chronic conditions that you live with.

  • Eileen
    4 years ago

    Just found this wonderful site today. I have been reading some of the basic information and this was the first personal information I read written by another person like me living with COPD
    Thank you so much, I had no idea what a day was like for anyone else in my situation. I just had my 70th birthday until about 5 years ago I was the epitome of health except for being a smoker with frequent bronchitis. My doctor had been trying to get me to stop smoking for 25 years and I always said I would if I ever had a problem. I have now learned that when you have the problem it’s too late.
    Until a year and a half ago it was a minor inconvenience with some shortness of breath and lack of stamina and using oxygen at night.
    I had stopped working from my job I loved, and I also suffered from some depression which I think was mostly job related and I became very sedentary. I develop circulation problems and swelling in my feet and simple cataract surgeries turned into 4 four surgeries because of complications and 6 months later a detached retina repair leaving me with poor vision. I had always been an avid reader, made miniature porcelain dolls, quilts and made heirloom doll and childrens dresses.
    Having lost my stamina, and the quality of my vision for all the things I loved to do…I was defiantly depressed…
    In June of 2014 the circulation problem turned out to be and an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm that had to have an emergency repair and then less than a month later, before my first post op visit, I fell in the rain and broke my right hip and crushed my right upper arm.
    After a frightening series of surgeries and Rehab hospitalization my life was totally changed… I could not do the rehab because my breathing would not allow me the rigorous routine that I needed and because I was unable to move and take care of myself my breathing and COPD was much worse… suddenly I was on oxygen 24 hours 7 days a week and having taken one thyroid pill one antidepressant and one breathing treatment medication in a nebulizer, suddenly I was on numerous medications (at one time 24 pills a day) …not only blood thinners but massive doses of prednisone..
    For 50 years I never varied between 145 to 160 pounds… suddenly every time I went to the doctor I had gained 8 – 10 pounds. The weight centers around me belly and literally feels like it’s crushing my lungs. I now weigh 210 pounds and absolutely I have had to buy increased sizes of clothes every month for the past 4 months.
    I could go on and on but seriously I live on a little Ranchito in the rural areas… and the altitude is high… I have been unable to return to my home for most of the last year and each time I’ve been home a few weeks I’ve had to come back to the hospital because my oxygen will not stay above 80 to 86…
    My entire life is lived in my daughter’s guest room and my husband comes once or twice a week to spend the day with me and go back home to feed and take care of our animals.
    Ms.Ultes… you have no idea what an inspiration reading your post has been for me. Just seeing your pictures was amazing and I have decided to take your advice and take control of my life…
    I don’t know anyone who has emphysema and COPD that is so disabling as I’ve experienced this last year and a half
    You are the first insight I had to what life on a day to day basis is. I thought it was just me being lazy or having given up. I am embarrassed about how slow I am, I avoid doing things with my kids because I don’t want them to see me as incompetent. And I am unable to feel good about the way I look with all the weight gain… but the most dramatic thing is my face is so totally different I don’t even look like myself. My husband took me out to eat one afternoon when I was able to be home and we ran into my best friend since high school… she did not even recognize me because she had not seen me in months.
    It is 2 hours past my bedtime I am usually asleep by this time… but I had to let you know what a difference you have made in my life today.
    My daughter got me this big phone that I talk to since vision and muscle tremors make computer technology difficult… so I hope that there aren’t too many mistakes in what I’ve written.
    I hope you sleep well and breathe easy knowing you make a difference in other people’s lives…
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart

  • Mary Ultes author
    4 years ago

    Hi Eileen, I understand that you feel, I do have several conditions besides my COPD that I deal with. But as you can see in the article I cannot let anything stop me. I don’t think many medications as you do as I feel they have done more harm then good. I am not advocating that you should take less medicine or giving any medical advice. I had however saying that you should be in partnership with your doctors. You should know everything you take why the doctors prescribing it to you and what benefit or harm it can do to you. I don’t do formal exercise due to my COPD and chronic heart failure. I feel I get enough exercise in maintaining my home, cleaning such as the dusting, vacuuming,washing dishes, cooking etc. gives me all the exercise I need. I do deep breathing exercise every day and meditation, they not only help with breathing but with anxiety also.
    And it’s very important to keep your anxiety under control if you want to live a full life with COPD.

    I too have problems with my site I have both astigmatism and cataracts. I wear glasses for the astigmatism but the cataracts cannot be corrected due to the fact that condition you simply cannot have any operations or invasive procedures. You use your phone to write I use a dictation device not only because of my eyes but, I am one of the worlds worst speller and a two fingered typist. But even a dictation device does not all spelled things right or pick up everything I say and I’m not good at editing so hopefully this comment will come out the way I wanted to, LOL.

    The problem with dealing with my looks too. At one time after a 29 stay in the hospital I lost so much weight as I just hung from my bones. For me this is devastating because before that time I looked 10 years younger than I was, in I never went out without full makeup, my hair done, and clothes had to be just so. When I first looked at myself I saw a 90-year-old frail woman looking back at me. It took me a while to start gaining weight back, but once I did for a while I couldn’t stop gaining weight, and blue up from my normal weight of 125 pounds to 189 pounds. I know some of the weight gain was due to some the meds I took at the time, but I’ve made up my mind I was going to lose that weight and I did. Right now I weigh 131 pounds I got there by eating a well-balanced diet. I eat foods that help my breathing and I have eliminated those I found affected my breathing negatively. Weight was only part of the problem my friends couldn’t believe how much on my face had aged. I now look 20 years older than I was and I never regained my youthful appearance. Although I hated the way I looked I’d never let this stop me from going out. As you can see in the photo I have on no makeup and my hair looks terrible. I had to make the choice fix my hair and makeup and be too tired to go out, or looks like shit and go out and have a good time. Going out won! Don’t ever let the way you look stop you from doing. I’ve found that most of my friends and family don’t really care what I look like all they care about is I’m well enough to do things with them and enjoy their company. And I don’t think you are friend care what you look like either.

    I’m glad you feel inspired I helped by my writing about my life with COPD. It is the reason I write & thanks enough. I want to let as many people as I can know that no matter how bad your COPD seems there is always something to due to stay active. All you have to do is remember to pace yourself and you don’t have to do a lot just choose the things most important to you and never give them up, (as long as it doesn’t affect your health in a negative way). As long as you don’t stop there is always hope of better days to come. I hope you had a good night sleep, and a wonderful blessed day ahead. Breathe deep & easy, Mary

  • Jenn Patel
    4 years ago

    Hi Eileen –

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing this with us! We really are so glad you found our community here at You are more than welcome to come here any time for information and support.

    It sounds like you have been dealing with a lot – please know that you are not in this alone. We welcome you to use our site to help in dealing with life with COPD. We also want to invite you to share your story on our Stories page, which can be found at this link:

    Thanks for all your comments on Mary’s article – she truly is an inspiration. We also appreciate your sharing YOUR strength and experience – it was really great to hear from you.

    Wishing you our best!

    Jenn (Community Manager,

  • LindaM
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the info Mary. I have been thinking about reclaiming driving.. I didn’t get short of breathe driving, it was the getting in and out but if I take my time and do it in stages, then I might be able to do it again. I may give it a go once I move.

    The independent living place I am moving to includes housekeeping and changing/washing my linens. So I won’t have that burden. I can chose to eat in the dining room, my apartment or I can cook myself so that will simplify that part of my life.

    There is a gym, library and hair salon in the complex so I won’t have to get out for that. I will just have to watch the weather so I am not going out on bad days.

    There is a hospital near by and I am hoping I can find a Better Breathers club nearby. I really think that would be a big plus for me. I have studied the disease and have a good handle on what I need to do. I have natural med treatments that I have added to what the Doctors have give me that help me. But that’s another topic…

    Looking for ward to your next blog and thanks again.

  • LindaM
    4 years ago

    You and I are about at the same stage and your day sounds very much like mine. I don’t have a ride around scooter but I use a rollator that has an O2 bottle on it for getting in and out DRs, stores without riding carts. I really like it because I can sit and breathe my O2 levels and lower my heart rate before going on. It really helps me.

    I am very impressed that you are still driving. I think I have allowed myself to become “scared” to drive. I have to depend on a neighbor to take me places. I only have 1 son nearby and he works so I don’t really have a support network. I am planning on moving into an independent living complex and I think that will give me an opportunity to make friends and perhaps increase my support network.

    I too need about 2 hours to bathe and get dressed so most days, it is just getting dressed and running a comb through my hair. I do what I can….

    I also find that anxiety meds and prayers made my days a little easier.

    It was really good reading your story. I don’t feel so alone now…

  • Mary Ultes author
    4 years ago

    Hi Linda, We all need support from family or friend. Because of moving from NM to Michigan, then to NC I don’t have to many friend in my area. My step daughter will take me anywhere I want to go, but,seh works two jobs & I hate to impose on her free time. I’m to independent for that, so I take my grandson most of the times when I go shopping to help carry the heavy bag. He also comes over & does my heaving cleaning for me. There are thing like making the bed. I can do them but they takes a lot out of me I pay him to do them. He’s to young to get a job, & he get no allowance, so it’s help as both.

    I like driving it is the one time I have never gotten SOB, When I get settle in my car it take me about 10/15 min. to get stat back to normal, but once I do I can drive for hours & never get SOB.I take road trips at least once a year. The last one was to Tenn. about 250 miles. Driving relaxes me. It’s getting in & out of the car that’s a number.

    If you never became SOB while driving, If I were you I would give it another try.The hardest time I had, was when I had to transfer my license from Michigan, to NC. instead of just giving me the eye test,(because I was SOB when to the desk & on o2) they made me do a road test as if the o2 made me incompetent & put on my license must drive with oxygen. I laugh so hard I lost my breath again.

    I thank moving to an independent living complex is a good idea & will help you a lot. A more active social life give better quality to our lives. Always know, you are no alone. There are thousands of us out there we just have to connect with each other.

    Good luck on your move, & God Bless. Breathe deep & easy, Mary

  • Dobbo
    4 years ago

    Just read your article, I’m in awe and admiration! You inspired me! Xxx

  • Mary Ultes author
    4 years ago

    Thanks Dobbo, I always like to hear the article about my life has given inspiration & hope to others. God Bless you, Breathe deep & easy.

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