A woman on a swing next to a pair of lungs

Becoming Friends With COPD

I know it sounds absurd, becoming friends with an illness that has changed my life so drastically. When I was first diagnosed with COPD, I raged against it, life and the unfairness of it. I was retiring with my husband soon. We had so many plans. Nothing would ever be the same. Each morning was greeted with tears and dread of the day ahead of me.

Dizzy with information

I realized I had to pull myself together before hopelessness took over completely. Always believing in tomorrow being a better day when things got turned upside down, out came the computer and the search was on. Everything was researched, from blogs to medical sites. I read books, joined support groups, and bought many items that promised to cure my illness. I was dizzy with information. Eventually, the frenzy gave way to a calm approach as I weeded out the bad information and focused on the reliable.

All friends need a name

I came to understand and accept COPD was now part of my life. It was like a marriage, 'til death do us do part. There would be no divorce so I better make the best of it. If this relationship was going to work out, we had little choice but to get along. I tend to face difficulties with a sense of humor. First, a name! I was tired of saying my illness or COPD. If we were going to be such close partners in life, I had to call it something. For no particular reason other than it popped into my head as I was writing in my journal one afternoon, my COPD became Betty!

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Betty is one of those unruly friends that shows up unannounced, has few manners and was always a disruption. It became my mission to tame her. Every relationship requires nurturing in order to get along. It is simply a matter of getting to know each other. Journaling was one way of doing that. I followed Betty's every movement, every single day. I learned the good, the bad and the ugly. Learning all her favorites, the exercises, the food and medicine, I developed a routine for co-existence. In return for all this attention, she gave me my life back. Breathing became easier. Life had a future and I was smiling again.

Walking hand in hand

Throughout this process I learned many lessons. Remaining angry because I had a life-changing disease was only making it worse. I have always had a sense of humor about life, and now, more than ever, it was necessary. A positive approach was the only way I was getting through this. Not every day is rosy. My friend Betty can still be a little unruly and unpredictable. She has taught me about living life in the slow lane and finding comfort in that.

Since I do have COPD and it isn't going away, the best thing I ever did for myself was to form a relationship with it. We will be walking hand in hand for the remainder of my days. I could fight it with hatred and bitterness or welcome it into my life as I would a friend.

Have you accepted your COPD diagnosis? What was it like for you? Share more with us here!

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