The Feeling of a COPD Diagnosis
Short of having cancer, a diagnosis of COPD is probably one of the most devastating things that could happen to you. COPD is a slow, progressive disease that will become worse over time and, as of right now, there is no cure.
The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, especially during times of exertion, increased phlegm, and a cough that won’t go away. Symptoms get worse with the passage of time as we travel through the four stages of COPD.
These three things will help us to manage the day to day symptoms of this progressive disease. One of the best first steps we can take is being proactive in seeking proper medical information and educating yourself about how COPD will affect you. Management of your disease is ultimately up to you.
Factors that contribute to diagnosis
Although smoking cigarettes is the documented cause in 95% of cases, not all of those that smoke will get COPD and no one knows why this is. Research is pointing more and more at genetics linking in the search for why some of us get COPD and others, under the same conditions, don’t.
Other major factors are environmental, such as living in areas with high pollution and poor living conditions that can include open flames that contribute to poor air quality. Being a preemie and having past bouts of pneumonia or pleurisy in the past.
Most of us will be inclined to self-blame for our contribution to getting COPD. Self-blame comes from not knowing more about COPD or about early interventions. We will not be alone because it is estimated that at any given time millions of people have COPD and remain undiagnosed.
Moving through the stages of grief with COPD
Grief is an intensely painful and torturous journey of losses. Once you realize that things are going to change, we open ourselves to anxiety. We try to manipulate our condition with pure will and we fail to keep everything the same as it once was. We will suffer losses of jobs, friends, and eventually a loss of what your normal life looked like. Now, we suffer physically and mentally.
These losses can be turned around and filled with gains and hope. Gains come from the recovery and hope comes from the acceptance that our disease is what it is. As we accept, we are more able to open up. Healing comes from allowing changes to take place, doing what we need to survive COPD.
Life changes but you're still living
Life will be different but not necessarily bad. You may not like all the changes but try putting it into perspective. Our quality of life is so much better than it would have been just a mere 25 years ago without modern measures.
Think of the rest of your life as the legacy that you wish to leave. We will live a long time with COPD. There is little likelihood that we will not die from COPD, so self-blame has no room in the equation.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?