Sometimes in life, we have to make tough decisions that will chart out the way ahead of us. I had declined the offer of a lung function test for a few years, but I knew deep down that I had COPD. The thought of even hearing the words terrified me.
To the hospital and back
I was having chest infections every few weeks. Then came crunch time and I was rushed to the hospital. After a two-week stint and spending a night in the ICU, I returned home.
I hit the scales a mere 6 stone (roughly 84 pounds). I had a lot of work to do and many tests to face. This was no easy task for an anxious agoraphobic. Month by month I did the tests and got my diagnosis of severe emphysema (stage 4 COPD).
It's so easy to wrap that diagnosis around yourself and be convinced that you're going to die any day now. After a lot of hard work, I've managed to reframe it as a new life journey - and it certainly is.
Choices to make
Surgery is one massive decision that you need to think long and hard about. I was offered 3 different types of surgery: lung reduction, zephyr valve, and possibly a double lung transplant. With these three options laying in front of me, I knew there and then the answer would be NO. There was no way I was mentally equipped to hear these options.
As I left that appointment, I felt totally defeated. The sheer shock I was under frightened the life out of me. I spoke in-depth with my husband and then my GP. We all agreed that the best decision was to say no to all surgery options. I knew if I looked after myself and did what was suggested I could still live a positive life. Eating healthy and exercising would be the best options for me.
Doing what I need to
Four years on and I'm still doing the things that were suggested to me. I very rarely think back to the decisions I made about not having surgery. My lung function is about 20% and luckily I still do not require oxygen. Some things are getting a bit harder to do, but I'm learning to practice my breathing techniques and pacing myself which definitely helps.
I have now signed a DNR (do not resuscitate). This makes it a lot easier for me, and in the long run, easier for my hubby. The high number of steroids I've been on has caused me to have osteoporosis, so my bones wouldn't hold out if I was to receive CPR. Plus, if I needed surgery and had to be put under, I wouldn't hold out due to the severity of my COPD.
The best life ever
Though this may feel a bit morbid or sad, it shouldn't. I'm living the best life ever. I quit smoking four years ago, I've taken up new hobbies, and I can get out and about on my mobility scooter or wheelchair when hubby takes me.
I'm no longer huffing and puffing as much. Life is so much easier and better. You know what? There is life after a diagnosis!
Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Debz passed away in October of 2021. She is deeply missed but her positivity and resilience live on through her articles. Thank you for everything, Debz.
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