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What would your current self (CS) say to your newly diagnosed (ND) self?

ND – “Oh boy….”
CS – “What?”
ND – “Wait. Who are you?”
CS – “I’m you 8 years down the road.”
ND – “How is that possible?”
CS – “It’s called fiction. You’re a writer. You should know anything is possible.”
ND – “Like what?”
CS – “Like I can help you…give you advice…help you not to make the same mistakes I did over time but also to encourage you to do more of the helpful things you’ve avoided because they take too much effort.

Reflecting on COPD diagnosis

In 2011, when I was first diagnosed with COPD, the only knowledge I had about lung disease is that my Mom died from emphysema in 1995 after a lifetime of Lucky Strikes.

So, as I was leaving the hospital that day after being rushed to the ER late one night because I was coughing my head off and winding up, breathless, and spending a week in intensive care, I was thinking about that and lighting up a Marlboro as I did.

I never thought twice about it.

I never changed my lifestyle.

Never changed my diet.

Didn’t bother even thinking about exercise to get my lungs going again.

I wanted to sleep in my own bed, see my family and get back to work before I got fired for slacking off.

And I never thought twice about quitting smoking even though it’s the first thing every doctor I saw over that week in the hospital told me – threatened me – cajoled me to do.

Doctors urged me to quit smoking

“You know you’ve gotta quit smoking, Kev,” one doctor told me. “You’re gonna be dead in a few years if you don’t.”

Yeah, yeah – I thought to myself. It’s not like I have cancer or something like that!

“You seem like an intelligent guy,” another physician said after an exam. “I’m really surprised someone your age (55) would still be smoking.”

“My family doesn’t get cancer,” I stupidly and arrogantly said to him. “Just heart attacks.”

That always got a laugh amongst my friends but this doctor never even cracked a smile. He just added,

“That’s a pretty stupid thing to say, Kevin.”

CS – “Mom died from smoking. Do you remember how tough it was for her to travel to Dublin with the rest of the family back in ’91? Do you recall how embarrassed she was to have to drag her concentrator everywhere she went – 24 hours a day?”
ND – “Yes, yes. I remember it all.”
CS – “Then take it to heart and stop smoking.”

A difficult commute and Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

It was getting more and more difficult to commute in 2012, 2013. My commute was to Jamaica, Queens and it took 90 minutes and 3 trains each way, every day.

“Let’s talk about LVRS (Lung Volume Reduction Surgery),” the pulmonologist said to me in 2014 when I knew I wasn’t doing well going back and forth to work.

I was still cheating in the smoking department – not a pack a day, anymore – but still too many. And I had resorted to driving which took just as much time and with the GWB toll and Triboro Bridge tolls was becoming very expensive. And I could smoke in the car.

CS – “WTF?”
ND – “I can’t stop smoking. I want to but I can’t.”
CS – “How hard have you been trying? Have you used the nicotine patch?”
ND – “It didn’t work.”
CS – “Try the gum.”
ND – “I’m not a gum chewer.”
CS – “Hypnotism?”

I did it but – it didn’t work.

I had the LVRS in 2014 but I still cheated. But – this time – the examinations of my lungs and heart were extensive.

And the very first thing my surgeon said to me, two weeks after surgery, was,
“You seem like an intelligent kinda guy. But you’re really f***ing stupid you know. You’re still smoking which is going to negate all the good work the surgery can do for you.”

I finally stopped smoking 3 years after diagnosis

CS – “So what finally helped you stop?”
ND – “Nicotine lozenges and Tic Tacs.”
CS – “Tic Tacs?”
ND – “My wife would mix Tic Tacs in with the nicotine lozenges because she didn’t want me getting addicted to the lozenges – which was very possible.”
CS – “She’s a bright woman.”
ND – “She is. But she’s also cheap. The Nicotine lozenges were $55.00 a box. The Tic Tacs were $2.”

CS – “Bottom line buddy. QUIT SMOKING NOW.
I know that even though you were diagnosed in 2011 you didn’t completely quit until 2014. That was 3 years that could have gone to helping us get better. But – too late now.”
ND – “Yeah. I know.”
CS – “But can I tell you something?”
ND – “Sure. What?”
CS – “Even now – 5 years later, if my doctor said, ‘Kev. It’s OK to go have a smoke.’ – I would. That’s how addicting nicotine is.”
ND – “I hear ya.”

CS – “But – the bottom line is – it is going to kill you; one way or another. Get smart. STOP NOW.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Amanda1
    2 weeks ago

    Another excellent piece of writing,I wish I hadn’t given in to the peer pressure to smoke,I didn’t even enjoy it when I first started,why the hell didn’t I stop then?!.How quickly does this awful illness progress once you have given up?,I,m terrified,I wish you all the very best,everyone fighting this with grit,and sometimes humour,take care everyone

  • KevinDavitt author
    2 weeks ago

    thank you Amanda. all the best to you as well.

  • Sashabear
    2 weeks ago

    I would say Bye.

  • pat02
    2 weeks ago

    After having had a lower left lobe removed when I was eight and then at 59 to be told the same disease, Bronchiectasis again in both lungs it was a shock, with Asthma, Bronchitis and Emphysema I was shocked. I am 71 now, so I have had 11 years of this getting worse with time. If I could say anything to my former self it would simply “Get ready for the fight of your life, take care of yourself but live every day to is fullest because there will be a time you won’t be able to. Live, Love , Laugh and Pray” ……….

  • Janet Plank moderator
    2 weeks ago

    This is excellent. I’m so glad that I listened in on this conversation.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Me too, Janet!

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