Summer has arrived. It is July, and here I sit feeling blessed as the sun shines through the day room window. It might have taken a little while, but for now at least I do seem to have found the right formula to halt my decline into oblivion, after having rode the crest of COPD through every stage, until some years ago I found myself with only 25% lung function. Stage 4, otherwise called End stage. Sounds like a death sentence doesn’t it? A term I am not impressed with. Even less afraid of.
COPD forced me to look after my body. To take note. Take care and listen to every warning sign my body growled at me. My intuition became keen. Until I knew, by instinct, if I was heading for a spell of illness. Sometimes, it was I were quite simply doing things wrong. Like not pacing myself properly. I became aware if I wanted to live I had to take action when needed. I learned what not to do. Sometimes the hard way. Staying away from large closed events in winter. Walking away from those with sniffling colds or sneezing. Asking friends or family to stay away if ill. They of course understood. Making sure I had each winters flu shot. And having a supply of medication at home ready for fast self treatment if needed.
I researched and learned as much about COPD as I could. Took an active interest in lung conditions. I worked and still do, as a volunteer with those working to improve our lives in lung care. Including specialists. Until I felt the best doctor was myself listening to my body.
It is many years since I was informed I only had 25% lung function. At times life has been difficult. I had to learn to cope with breathlessness, and to find ways to make it less so. Learning how to deal with infections quickly became important, even to recognizing when I have a pneumonia setting in and medicating fast. Make no mistake. Living with COPD is a learning game. The result is today I have about the same lung function, and feel better in myself, than I did five years ago, before I was prescribed oxygen.
I know cold, damp, or windy weather is bad for me, and so my home is heated 24/7 for six months a year. My life sometimes revolves around the weather. I can tell when air pressure and what weather conditions will make me more breathless than usual. On the plus side I also know when I should have an easier time as high pressure calm days, with the temperature in the upper 70’s to low 80’s F, (23 – 30 C) make for blissful, less breathless days for me. If only our climate was like that all the time, I often think.
It is essential to have indoor hobbies for bad weather days. Writing, photography, and meteorology are all interests I enjoy and can work on indoors. We must also learn how best to exercise indoors. Not to exercise at all is not an option. I never waste the long warm days of summer. That is the time to travel, take lots of photographs, and enjoy the sunshine. I learned to Google walk when I planned on visiting somewhere new. Is it ok to drive my scooter there? How hilly is it? Is the vacation accommodation suitable? Are there steps to be climbed? Is there an elevator? So many questions that are important to ask. But – we can not only live a very long life with COPD, but a fulfilled, enjoyable one too. Whatever stage of your illness.
I learned through the years through being proactive that COPD can be managed. And that the progress can at all stages be slowed. I have also learned that it is far more likely death will get us from a cause other than COPD. Unless of course you do not obey the rules and invite the reaper.
If you want to live a very long life even though you have COPD, the simple rule is don’t smoke. Exercise daily, move that body. Sleep as well as you can. Eat a good diet. Do not stress too much. Use oxygen if prescribed it. Socialise and attend events including dining out. Enjoy hobbies. Laugh a lot. Take a vitamin D supplement if needed to help your bones and immune system (speak with your doctor first). But most of all be positive, and enjoy your life.
Till I write again. Offer a smile because that will make someone’s day. And of course, breathe easy.