Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Is COPD Terminal – Am I Going to Die?

As someone who has written a journal on my journey with COPD for a several years I often receive emails from frightened readers. Or notice a search engine query asking if COPD is a death sentence or how long do I have to live with COPD? “Will I live long enough to see my children grow up?” “Does this mean I will not see my daughter grow up, get married, start her own family? Or ever know my future grandchildren?” are often the first questions I read in emails I receive.

Many times this is followed by a Google session as the frightened patient types “how long do I have to live with COPD?“. To then receive some good, but sometimes frightening advice. One page I know informs the reader you will live five years at most from diagnosis. How wrong is that? I have suffered COPD for 28 years now. I have friends on my COPD network that have lived with this illness for longer than I. If that advice had been right, I would have been dust by 1992.

None of us will beat the reaper.

We are all sadly going to die at some time in the future.

But more than likely with COPD and not because of it

Despite COPD being one of the major causes of death in both the USA and UK. I am not going to lie, COPD will finish some of us. But most will have managed their condition for very many years, with lots of fun-packed times put in before the inevitable happens.

The truth is how long you live once you have been diagnosed is up to you. Your life and how long you survive once diagnosed is literally in your own hands. How long you survive will depend on your actions because although COPD is progressive that progress, providing you do not smoke, is very slow. Just simple lifestyle changes can and will add years to your life. As your illness progresses through the stages there is no denying there will be many challenges, and if you reach stage 4, there might come a time when you need to use oxygen therapy. But the truth is you are much more likely to die of something other than COPD.

Terminal to me is having cancer and being told you have weeks or months to live. That is the time to do all the things you have been scared to do. A parachute or bungee jump for instance. Can you imagine me jumping out a plane with an 8 pounds oxygen cylinder on my back? I guess my jump will speed up a bit but have to admit to laughing when I think about it.

Our job with COPD is to make sure the reaper waits as long as possible.

To do that, all you need to do is manage your condition. Take your medications when you need them. Oxygen if prescribed. Do not smoke. Else you might not last five years. Quitting smoking slows the pace of COPD dramatically. Exercise as much as you are able. This will exercise the lungs and help to keep muscle toned. Muscle uses least oxygen. Try not to get stressed as stress causes lots of breathing problems. Try to stay positive and to keep positive people around you. Have ‘It’s good to laugh’, as your motto and laugh often. Ask your consultant for a COPD management plan and stick to it. Make sure you get a flu shot each year and pneumonia shot. If you become unusually breathless seek medical attention as soon as you can. If you do that, like me, you can live for very many years. In two years I have an anniversary. It will then be 30 years I will have lived with COPD – yet despite stage four I am still enjoying life.

Two years ago I learned of the death of a 66-year-old man from COPD. It was with sadness I read the reason. Despite having been prescribed oxygen, a false pride meant he would not use it. To him it was seen as a weakness to be seen using oxygen. Sadly his heart gave out under the strain of trying to give his body the oxygen he needed, and he died.

If you are prescribed oxygen it is to protect your vital organs.

This includes your heart. Oxygen when needed helps us to feel well and to breathe easier. I use oxygen for mobility and have no such false pride. Sometimes people look but everyone is polite and helpful. During the three years I have used oxygen not one has been rude. It is equally sad that many that do have mobile oxygen do not venture out their homes, in fear of what others might say. My thoughts have always been if someone has a problem with my cannula that is their problem. Not mine.

I hope this short piece has helped allay some of your fears of COPD, leaving you more able to start to feel less stressed and more able to move forward. Till I write again, keep that smile. But most of all, Breathe Easy.

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.


  • Paula
    3 years ago

    The good doctor called me into a room that he didn’t normally use to see patients and told me I had COPD and that I had 4 years left to live. He handed me a prescription, instructed me to take the medication, and instructed me to call him if I needed anything else. That was the sum total of instruction I was given. It was also the time I went looking for another doctor. Oh, and that expiration date passed about 6 years ago.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Paula – and that’s great to hear! As I’m sure you are now keenly aware of, it’s impossible (no matter what anyone says) for a doctor (or any health care professional) to actually ‘predict’, how long someone has to live with COPD. Our COPD online community members have expressed similar situations (for themselves) to the one you describe for yourself. So, you are not alone!
    We appreciate you sharing your experience with all of us!

    Live you life to the fullest and enjoy it!
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Shirley Ann
    4 years ago

    I have been given a double whammy – I have both COPD (40 years of smoking) and Dilated Cardiomyopathy. I was dx’d with DCM about 9 years ago and COPD shortly after. I quit smoking almost 9 years ago. I am almost 61 now and I plan to go on living as long as God decides and appreciate every day this side of the grass. I take my meds and when the day comes I need oxygen, I will gladly use it if it makes me more comfortable and breathe easier. My aim is for 70 to 80!

  • Shirley Ann
    4 years ago

    Also, I have a paralyzed, elevated left hemi-diaphragm – basically, only my right lung is functional. I have also afib, sarcoidosis in my lungs in remission, congestive heart failure, left bundle branch block, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis in my hands, knees and feet. You could say I have a quadruple whammy! lol

  • Uncle Jim & Aunt Mary
    4 years ago

    YES!! Yesyesyes! Mary and I teach pulmonary rehab patients and their caregivers how to live well with COPD, we instruct RT students, and we travel to conferences to help spread awareness about COPD. You have hit all of the main points that we make in our speaking!
    Thee only thing that I would add is that exercise builds the strength and resilience we need in order to ward off the exacerbations and to recover from them.
    Longevity is truly a function of compliance with meds, exercise, and attitude!
    Good job, and thanks!

  • Shirley Ann
    4 years ago

    Great on you two!

  • Poll