Education - Don't Wait For It!
I have COPD, but I also see and take care of many COPD patients on a daily basis while working in the hospital. I can tell you that without a doubt they are some of the most resilient and determined people I have ever met. Getting a COPD diagnosis can be super scary and can lead you with a lot of questions.
Learning all about this disease can take time and even then, treatments change and it is important to educate yourself so you can be better equipped to take on the challenges that can come along with it.
Here are some tips:
Start with your doctor
Always start with your doctor. Ask questions. Don't ever feel like you're a bother to him/her. They work for you and are there to help you and answer any questions you might have about COPD. They will be able to tailor a treatment plan specific to your needs. What works for another person with COPD may not work for you.
The Internet can be your friend
The saying is definitely true that you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet. However, so much can be learned from it. Read all about your medications. Learn what they are and what they do. Not all inhalers are the same nor do they do the same things. Read other people's stories and experiences. Research into new treatments and upcoming therapies for COPD. If you think it might be something you could benefit from, write it down and discuss it with your doctor the next time you are there. He/she will be impressed that you have “done your homework” and are taking an active role in managing your disease.
There are a plethora of online support groups for COPD online that can be helpful as far as others personal experiences. However actual in-person support groups are also a fantastic source of information Check with your local American Lung Association office to see if there are any COPD specific groups in your area.
I love health fairs. I volunteer at them whenever I am able. Meeting and educating people with lung diseases is my passion. Watching the lightbulb light up above someone's head when things finally click when questions are answered is why I do what I do. Often times health fairs will offer free or reduced costs screenings for a variety of health problems. Since it is pretty common for a person with COPD to have other medical issues, definitely take advantage of any health fairs in your area. Call your local hospitals to see when/if their health fairs are scheduled. Also, check with the health department in your area as they will also put on similar events.
When I was young I used to think that the phrase “you should learn something new every day” was silly. Now that I am older I absolutely think it is a great phrase to live by. Think about how far medicine has come over the past century, decade, and even the past few years. Treatments are constantly evolving and improving. I can’t wait to continue to learn about them. How about you?
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