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3 pairs of illustrated lungs. One covering ears, one covering mouth, and one covering eyes.

Scared to Talk about COPD

After leaving the doctor’s office the day mom was officially diagnosed, we kind of made a “not so official” pact: She asked me not to talk to my siblings about it. Before the day was out, we had come up with a way to discuss it without really using certain words – you know, words like smoking, lungs, doctors, and, breathing. For example, she would tell me that she was out of “something” and asked me to go to the store and get her “some”. I went along with it for a while. She was scared to talk about COPD, and it wasn’t my place to force the issue.

Scared to talk about COPD

While I was okay with avoiding the language of COPD, I was not okay with her staying in denial indefinitely. I began to think about ways to ease her into that conversation without pushing. I knew that it was important for her to accept the reality of her diagnosis in order to make changes. How was I going to know when she was ready? I began looking for signs that she was moving through the stages of grief.

Ok, I was pretty subtle and did it without making her feel like I was pushing her. When we talked, I would try to insert language that was honest, yet gentle. It became easier when I looked at the emotions that were driving her to avoid the topic. One day, I just looked her in in the eye and asked if she was going to make an appointment with the pulmonary rehabilitation clinic. She told me no. She was afraid that they would judge her.

We changed the subject

I ran into town and got us a bag of burgers and fries and we watched Jonathon Livingston Seagull – just to hear Neil Diamond sing. After the movie, we talked about how all the seagulls were made to feel afraid of spreading their wings and flying high. Mom always got so tickled when he stood up to the Elders of the flock. I suggested that the Elders were afraid of change and of the unknown. It grew quiet in the darkened den where we were cuddled up in afghans and easy chairs.

Mom broke the silence, “When I get scared to talk about COPD, it makes me want to run from all the doctor’s, and tests, and clinics.” I told her that I understood. It scared me too. I asked her what things she found to be the scariest. Her answers were quick.

Scared of what?

First, the thought of quitting smoking was just too overwhelming for her. Next, fear of judgment from others who didn’t understand her addiction followed that. She was also scared that she would end up in a wheelchair, or need a scooter. She wondered if she would have to wear oxygen and carry a tank around.

As life unfolded over the next few weeks, months, and years, all of the things she feared the most came to pass. We got through them one at a time. As she faced those things individually, they didn’t seem so scary after all.

If you are scared to talk about COPD, I hope this encourages you to slowly ease in the conversations with your family, friends, and medical providers.

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.


  • lizlizardrn
    1 year ago

    I totally understand her reasons for not wanting to tell ! When you are the matriarch , it feels like you’ve fallen into the abyss …. how will my family and friends view me now? It’s hard … still.

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    1 year ago

    The conversation is not an easy one to have but it is a conversation that must be had.
    You might be surprised to know that everyone else actually already knew and you are the last one to find out.
    Barbara Moore (site moderator)

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