Last updated: June 2023
Most people think that when you are diagnosed with a serious chronic illness like COPD that all your choices are made for you. Nothing could be further from the truth, as most of your future is in your hands. I have compiled a small list of some of the choices I have looked into.
You can choose to deny or accept your chronic illness. If you deny it, you will chase the cycle of shortness of breath in many ways. If you accept your chronic illness, you will learn techniques to manage your shortness of breath and live a better, longer life.
The best chance you have for better living with COPD is your work at respiratory rehab. Rehab usually consists of two parts: exercise and education. You will learn to control your breathing while building muscle mass to support your worn-out lungs. The education portion will take you through mindfulness and help you to control anxiety and fear of constant shortness of breath.
Lung volume reduction surgery
LVRS is an invasive surgery that collapses diseased lung tissue and allows your lungs to fit better in the chest cavity. The main goal of this surgery is to ease breathlessness. Recovery time can be 1 to 12 weeks. It is a high-risk surgery so not everyone will qualify due to having compromised lungs. Those who qualify will have severe emphysema mainly in the upper lungs.
Bronchoscopic lung volume reduction
(BLVR) are zephyr valves that are strategically placed to block the diseased part of the lung and help to deflate the lung and reduce hyperinflation. This is less invasive than LVRS but it is not always a successful surgery. However, studies have shown improved shortness of breath, greater exercise tolerance, and overall better quality of life. The valves are inserted via bronchoscope and the surgery takes about 60 minutes.
The most common complication is Pneumothorax, a collapse of the lung that affects about 17% of those having surgery. Secondary complications include pneumonia or exacerbation. This new procedure is not successful in all patients and it is too early to have a firm grasp of the percent of successes.
This is major surgery, reserved for those that have tried other treatments and have not been successful. The transplant procedure is becoming more common as the number of candidates rises and organs become available. Most are hoping for a double transplant, but you can live nicely with just one new lung. I was told exceedingly early on that I would not be a candidate because I would be too old by the time I was sick enough. Age is becoming less of a factor and so your transplant options should again be discussed with your doctor.
A brand new procedure for those with moderate COPD. A spray of liquid nitrogen rapidly freezes airways walls to destroy mucus-producing cells while preserving healthy cells.
Tools I use
Mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and meditation are the best medicine I have found to control the anxiety that my brain causes me to feel.
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