What Should I Do In Stages 1 and 2?

Last updated: August 2018

If you have recently been diagnosed with COPD, you may be wondering:

What should I do?

The short answer is, you should live. My mom used to say, "Do all you can do, and that's all you can do." Chances are high that you are still able to go on trips and enjoy life. You may have begun struggling with fatigue and shortness of breath, but in the big picture, now is the time to get out and enjoy life as much as you can.

One of the things that mom told me many times is that she wished she had known what she knew in the end in the early years, just after she was diagnosed. She stopped doing so much because of fear and the embarrassment of wearing her oxygen. As her condition progressed, she began to realize that although that time was bad, it did get worse, and she really could have done more. She could have taken more trips. She could have visited friends and family more often. So many times she mentioned that she wished that she had simply sat in the yard to enjoy the fresh air more in the early stages.

I understand that in each stage, your body is adjusting, and you honestly don't feel like you can do more.

If you are able to walk any distance, or even more, walk up and down stairs at all, trust me, you can do more than you think. If you can take a shower without needing to sit still for thirty minutes or more, you can do more than you realize.

I remember her doctor explaining to us that as COPD progresses, the body will adapt to the new limitations. It's incredible really. In the last five years (or more), her carbon dioxide levels were high enough to have killed someone that was otherwise healthy. However, because her body had adapted to the carbon dioxide over a long period of time, she was able to live with high levels of it in her body.

My point is that you will have challenges in each stage.

Stages 1 and 2 are difficult because everything is new.

¹During these stages, your FEV1 is above 35% according to the ATS, American Thoracic Society or above 50% according to GOLD, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease.  You know things are not right, and really in your reality, they are bad.  Maybe having shortness of breath is something that you've never had to deal with before, so it can be very scary. Your body is adjusting to increases in carbon dioxide and decreases in oxygen, so you may be dealing with a great deal of fatigue.

For a little perspective, in stages 3 and 4, the FEV1 will be below 35% according to the ATS or below 50% in the GOLD.  Your capacity to breathe will have diminished drastically. Don't miss a moment. Participate in everything you possibly can. Mark off a few things on your bucket list. (We all should be doing that anyway.) Make each day count.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived," Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854).

Having COPD in stages 1 and 2 is not easy, but if you stop living at this point, I believe that you will come to realize that you could have done more. You could have lived. Enjoy each day, and "do all you can do, and that is all you can do."


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