Aging, COPD and a Bucket List
Since the beginning of my time of awareness, I knew that people were young and old. There were people in between too. Some were sick and some were happy and felt good. Maybe this is why I struggle more to think of age with COPD, I think of age as being part of life.
I know that people have lived, and some have died. I used to be afraid of that, but my dad would always say there was nothing to be afraid of and that was part of life. He wasn’t afraid and I shouldn’t be either. I remember when we lost a few people at school age, some from car accidents and another who drowned on alcohol. Older people, maybe in their 40's and 50's died from cancer, heart, and other things.
Experiences with other's health issues at a young age
In my sophomore and junior year of high school, I worked in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide. There I became aware that people had other health issues than just old age and cancer. They had bladder and kidney issues. There were lung issues. People aspirated. Some weren’t aware of who they were or where they were. Some had regular visitors, and some had none. They all opened my heart and my mind.
A few years later, a young girl came to my apartment. She was babysitting for the neighbor boy and he wasn’t good. She said his mom said to just give him cough syrup if needed and she didn’t know what to do. The little boy was struggling to breathe and wheezing so bad. His mom couldn’t be reached when calling her. He was having a severe asthma attack. I said to call 911. The ambulance picked him up and the sitter went home. The mom was mad at me, but I told her that her son was dying and where was she. Never had I seen anyone with asthma or heard anything so terrifying. That has never been forgotten.
Aging and fear of death
I remember when my mom turned 40. I was 15 then. It was terrifying, I thought she was so old and was going to die. Death terrified me. She replied that she was good in health and active, as she continued to get ready to go out for the night. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, just death.
When my mom turned 60, she said that she was afraid of dying. She had lost one of her best friends and that was a first. I told her that she was in good health and active. At this point in my life, it seemed old age is all that would cause death. You see, I had selective thinking.
Then I began working ambulance. Working in the back with the patients was a dream come true. I saw so much and learned so much. I began to realize that death had no age. When most people woke that morning, they sure didn’t know that would be their last time. I learned that we have to live each day to the fullest. Then I was diagnosed with COPD.
Diagnosed with COPD
I have numerous health issues. Sometimes I can’t tell what is right and what is wrong. What is the cause of what I’m experiencing? For what is making me struggle to breathe, what is causing the pain? Are one of these things going to cause me to die?
In the meantime, my back is bad, I’ve had one total knee replacement, two cataracts removed and more. I can’t even carry an egg in its shell without a severe allergic reaction. There is much more. Getting my oxygen levels up after my last surgery took awhile. But look at everything, where does life start anymore? Where does it end?
Those who are just diagnosed with COPD hear that COPD is non-reversible. I remember hearing that. Those words were and are scary. That means that it will cause us to die in ten years, twenty years, or forty years. I have always said I will get hit by a bus first. Yet, people are concerned about their life. Some are nearing the end of their COPD life. None of us know how much time we have left or how we will die.
My COPD is up and down according to my lung function tests. I am moderate. My pulmonary hypertension is better. I look in the mirror and see an older face. Because of dry mouth, I had to have all of my teeth pulled and now dentures. Now that is horrible! My husband said he isn’t surprised, he expects that in old age, he figured it would happen to him first.
I'm afraid of my age
My age is what I’m afraid of. I knew I was in my 60's, but 64! That’s 6 years from 70! I’m getting close to old age! Now that’s something to be afraid of. Actually, I have been afraid of old age. It’s important to realize, age is part of life. I have so many things wrong that anything can affect my tomorrow or the next tomorrow. I don’t know how many tomorrows are left. I've had some real scares. There is no time to worry about COPD or one other thing taking my life. There are so many other things that could do it too.
Living life to the fullest
You see, I’m aging and I’m hoping I continue to age. I may be basically housebound, but I’m alive! It’s up to me to find things to do in my life to #1 accept that I'm alive, #2 to believe I'm alive and #3 to live life. I can’t focus on my COPD or asthma, allergies or back, hips, whatever. There are too many things wrong with me, that can seem so scary. Too many things that can shorten my life, just by trying to figure out what is causing me to be feeling what I’m feeling. Thinking of all of that could cause depression, but who wants that. So I say, “It’s time to live, more now, than ever before”. Always remember, we can’t change yesterday, but we can change today and hopefully our tomorrow. We have to change our thinking about them.
A bucket list and making every day count
I’m making out my bucket list. I might not be able to do all things, but I will enjoy making it out and dreaming about it. I’ll check things off of my bucket list as I do them. They might be as simple as getting a massage for the first time or renting a small cottage at a state park. It might be eating out at a special restaurant or having a grandchild spend a weekend. We can do whatever we can imagine. Some things may not happen because of our health or finances or who knows what, so the lists might have to be tweaked every so often. Yet, we can make it the best bucket list that each of us can think of. I may not be able to take an actual safari, yet I’m can sure find one online.
It's important that we make every day count. It doesn’t have to be a good day, or even a day free of struggles. It just has to be a day that I am breathing, a day that I’m alive, that you’re alive! As a doctor once said, no one has a crystal ball. It’s true. It’s important that you have a support group, someplace to share and talk about your COPD. You can visit us on COPD.net. Here you will find support and people who understand what you are experiencing. People who care. Always remember, until your last breath, you are alive! Breathe-easy friends.
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