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It Couldn’t Happen To Me

In my EMT class some years back, when we were learning to take patient evaluations and then the reports, sob kept coming up. The patient was sob. I couldn’t believe how rude and others seemed to have that deer in the headlights look too. How we laughed when we found out that it stood for shortness of breath.

Shortness of Breath

Who would have thought at that time, that I would end up being the one with sob. Not me, nor did I think I would be one to get a disease caused by smoking. Look around, there were people much older than me who were smoking and appeared to be healthy. After all, things like that never happened to me. Ha! Not yet anyway.

In July 2003 I quit smoking. The date turned out to be on my granddaughter’s birthday. I quit smoking cold turkey. I didn’t think my attitude was too bad. After all, my husband married me in August of that year. My husband says I was basically very grouchy, but it was worth it. The following January, we moved to the Black Hills. My husband took a job there as deputy sheriff and after a short time, I got onto their ambulance service which made me so happy. I had volunteered for a short time prior to the hire.

After a year or so, I began to struggle with my breathing and was sob more frequently. I noticed after walking an incline that I was really having trouble. I checked my oxygen and it was at 79%. I had checked this a few times with exertion and it was the same 79%. When I was on level ground or resting, my O2 was okay. I also realized it was worse at the higher elevations. Time to see the doctor.

I told the doctor that I’m thinking altitude is what’s causing my problems. After doing spirometry and other testing, it was decided that I had exercise induced asthma, as well as allergies. There were a few breathing medications and inhalants, plus Albuterol rescue inhaler. Next stop, the allergist. After testing, it turns out I’m allergic to everything, almost anyway. I would begin with low dose allergy shots.

When my husband goes to the doctor or ER with me, he now tells them it’s easier to ask what I’m not allergic to. Tests too, kept coming up with possible kidney cancer. I know that over time, three different doctors requested it and my kidneys are fine.

A change of scenery…

We moved back to flatter land, to see if that would help my health issues. It didn’t make a difference. We don’t have pine trees, but we have other kinds.

I was sent to National Jewish Medical Center. There, I was diagnosed with moderate COPD and some vocal chord dysfunction. When I left, I had a variety of other medications, some changed and some new. As far as the exercise induced asthma, I possibly had that too. They were more concerned with my COPD. With this began regular and additional testing. Time with a cardiologist for pulmonary hypertension as well.


It was fairly easy to tell which medications were working and which weren’t. When I was really sick and when I just felt yuck. This was now a COPD life. I learned to walk into a store and right back out because candles were affecting me so much. I always had candles and really liked them. Now it feels like they suck the life out of me. Flowers do the same. Some things are okay to be around and some aren’t, and they look the same. Researching those items, there might be a different ingredient. Wow. Remember those cigarettes? Look at the ingredients, the toxins in those! Look at how I let them destroy my life, how they overpower me when others are smoking now.

Back to COPD and overall health. It can get frustrating when others know what’s best for us and advise and press us to try some homeopathic medications, inhalants and more. I see enough doctors of different specialties and have local doctor who oversees everything. I have meds for the different parts of my body and the most important, for my breathing, my COPD. You see, if I can’t breathe, I won’t survive. So, “thank you” to all who share their recommendations, “I know you mean well, but please, only make me say no thank you one time. If I change my mind, I know where to find you.” To some including docs, frustration means anger or anxiety. To me it’s more confusion, because others aren’t understanding what I’m trying to relay and I’m struggling with words. Not quite brain fog, but getting close.

Back to cigarettes. Once upon a time, cigarettes causing life issues wouldn’t have made sense to me. This is how my COPD story began, because of cigarettes. This is how my journey continues, because of cigarettes. It’s my fault, I chose to smoke, I liked smoking. Heck, I remember taking butts out of ashtrays to get one more puff after I ran out. That’s like ingesting everything in an ashtray. How sick! But nothing could happen to me, right? Just like nothing can happen to you… right? But it can. Did you know that by quitting smoking you are possibly slowing the progression of your disease! It’s good for your overall health for always.

I really like this saying “you have a lot of living to do”. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You don’t know how you will die, tomorrow or many years from now. We are all on this COPD journey together. There are many wonderful things that you might find on your journey. There are people you know and others you will meet, even here. You might enjoy watching the birds through a window. You might enjoy a new book, or your spouse might surprise you with a treat. You might still be active. Who knows. That’s what makes a journey good, sometimes great! We can’t change our past, but we can change our present and for me, a lot of that is changing how I think of it. I also say thank you for being supportive of my journey and my story.

I hope you have a breathe-easy day/night and that you find smiles along the way.

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.