a woman sitting on top of five circles showing oxygen tanks and cannulas, socks, a robe, an exercise peddler, and a shower head

There's Always a Solution, Part 2

Editor's note: This is part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 can be found here.

Getting dressed and taking showers seem to be tasks that everyone says are the most difficult. They are energy draining and breath robbing.

Showers and my wardrobe

There are numerous articles about showers, so I don’t want to spend much time discussing them. A shower chair, hand-held hose, wearing oxygen in the shower, and using a terry cloth robe for drying off and resting after are the best tips I have found.

I changed my wardrobe when getting dressed in the morning became difficult. Everyone has their own style, but leggings are most comfortable for me. The elastic waist doesn’t feel binding and they are easy to slip on. They also wash easily with no wrinkles or ironing. I purchased three neutral colors, navy blue, black, and dark gray. My tops are all t-shirts of different colors that coordinate well with the three colors. My socks are all the same, making laundry easier. By simplifying the wardrobe I wear daily, it makes a difficult chore easier without using a lot of energy.

The oxygen dilemma

Too many times I have been out and discovered my oxygen tank is running low, especially if I stayed longer than planned. This would cause so much anxiety, I couldn’t enjoy whatever event I was attending. I use portable travel tanks that I fill myself. Now I take two with me. I use one in the car while traveling to and from my destination. When I arrive, I change to the full one. This provides me with plenty of oxygen for my activities without worrying about running out.

Keeping one or two extra cannulas in the car has also been a big help. I had a problem once that a cannula got a split in it and I didn’t have another. It is usually getting caught unaware in different situations that helps us rethink and plan for the next time.

One task at a time

I was told by a pulmonologist when I was in the rehab hospital to do only one thing at a time to save energy and my breath. Every movement requires oxygen. If I am walking, don’t talk. When I am eating, don’t talk. Standing for any length of time makes me very short of breath. I find ways to complete chores sitting instead, such as food preparation, folding clothes, and showering. Doing just one thing at a time is difficult. I like to talk to my husband when we have dinner. As I gained strength, I was able to do a little more multi-tasking. Any day that is a particularly bad breathing day, it works to revert back to the single-task method.

My favorite peddler

My favorite solution is my exercise peddler. I used one in rehab and it was the machine I looked forward to using the most. I had a treadmill, but I didn’t like it and it took up too much space. Instead of exercising as I should, I avoided it. Then I discovered I could buy a peddler similar to the one in rehab. If you are not familiar with this item, imagine an exercise bike without the seat. Providing my own chair, I am able to peddle using my feet and also put it on the table and use my arms.

I got a heavy-duty one that has different intensity levels as well as a display readout for time, distance, or calories burned. It takes up very little space and it provides a good lower or upper body workout. Most are also under $100. Since exercise is such an important part of caring for COPD, finding a way to do it that is enjoyable is half the battle. This little machine has helped me get stronger and has become my best helper in living with this disease.

It is easy to get lost in what we cannot do having COPD. Instead, find ways to make life easier so we can still live a life that brings joy and fulfillment.

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.

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