needle popping red balloon

And Then There Was COPD…

So, I’m new in the world of COPD. I have spent most of my life living a naïve belief that I was somehow safe from the harsh realities the rest of the world faces. When I was confronted about being a smoker and the risks involved, I always blew it off. I would always tell people that, “If the war in Iraq did not get me, and years in the Petrochemical industry did not get me, then cigarettes did not have a chance.

Cigarettes

I knew the risks all these years of smoking. Everyone knows the risks of being a smoker these days. I have no excuses for where I am today. From a simple cough that just never went away, to an X-ray, followed by some other tests. Now I find myself diagnosed with a hard dose of reality. Honestly, I am not yet sure if I even know how I feel about this diagnosis. It is definitely one of those times when part of me is afraid, part of me is angry, and part of me is still in disbelief I suppose. Play silly games, win silly prizes.

Another Chapter

I know enough to understand that this is not the end of my story. This is merely another chapter that my wife and I will face together. I have learned that some of the damage can be repaired, while some of the damage cannot be repaired. My pulmonologist told me she does not believe I am at the end stages of COPD, but that is pretty much all she has told me to date. I still have a lot of testing in my near future to help determine just how far along the disease has progressed.

A Realist or Skeptical

Most of my life, I have been a skeptical person. I always tried to tell everyone I was a realist, but skepticism is probably much closer to the truth. Mentally and emotionally I go back and forth between hope and hopelessness. Every time I lean toward the darker of the two, I also feel like a hypocrite. As the primary caregiver to my wife, I am the one constantly reminding her that everything will be okay; that one day things will get better. And yet, when faced with my own unknown future, I find that I do not have that same level of confidence.

Dreams & Goals

I have spent the last week feeling a bit numb, like none of the things that were important a week ago are important anymore. In reality, nothing has changed. I still have all the same responsibilities. I also still have all the same dreams and goals. The difference is, today I am afraid I won’t be able to finish or complete goals I started trying to achieve about a year ago.

One of my goals was to be able to sail around the world. That one, admittedly might have been a stretch even under the best of circumstances. But, we do still have a small boat that I am trying to get ready to at least make it out of the marina for a few overnight stays. Now I am worried that we won’t be able to finish that task. I shouldn’t be worried, but I am.

Fear

It’s definitely not that I am afraid to die. As a former infantry soldier, I got past my fear of dying years ago. I made peace with the possibility that it could happen at any time and moved forward. What I am afraid of now is simply the things I may not get to finish. Worse yet, I feel uncertain about which goals to hold onto, and which ones I should perhaps release. I wonder if I will have disappointed anyone with my shortcomings.

With so much left to do in life, how do you get past the initial shock to your system that suddenly, there is a chance you are carrying around an expiration date? How do you move past that thought and regain focus on all the wonderful things you “still” have?

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

View Comments (10)
  • mickey22
    10 months ago

    Good article…..good comments

  • chipdriller
    11 months ago

    well ,that’s a nice story and it gets to the point.i found out more about copd on this website than my primary caregiver has told me in 6 years. I to smoked but it wasn’t only the smoking the breathing of diesel fumes asbestos pipe dust breathing of the air at waste water treatment plants and so forth. I got laid off the end of January due to lack of work, so they say but that’s not why I know and they know. I have been doing the breathing exercises for 2 weeks now and don’t feel to bad eating the veggies and stuff feel a lot better don’t feel bloated much now so I say I made a dent in this copd mess I still want to go back and work as a heavy equipt operator as I still have “a lot” to offer

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi chipdriller and thanks for sharing your experiences with us here. It’s good to hear that everything you’re working on is providing you with positive results. The exercising and eating right combined with your positive attitude is the way to go. With a goal of trying to get back into the workforce, you really have something to strive for. Keep up the good work!
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Mandy
    11 months ago

    I know exactly how you are feeling I too have dreams and planned to, spend so much time with my three grandchildren, and retirement with my husband, I hope I will still be able to , just at a slower pace. I get so upset with myself , I was a smoker also and still struggle, the honesty of your article impressed me and I wanted to say thank you.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Thanks for your comment and thoughts, Mandy. Keep moving forward, do not look back. It’s commendable that you too have a goal – to keep living your life albeit a bit slower -there is nothing wrong with that. I think you’ll find this article by Michelle Vincent, one of our contributors, underscores that viewpoint: https://copd.net/living/copd-diagnosis-life-in-the-slow-lane/.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • lynn2u
    11 months ago

    Hi Steve Workman. I miss swimming the most now that I am on oxygen, but I figured out how to get in my pool and do water aerobics last summer, with my long 35 foot concentrator hose out the back door! They need to find a way for us swimmers to stay in the swim. I have even wondered if it might be time for me to learn diving skills. You use oxygen as a diver so… I am 77 years old and still have dreams and goals. I have a lot of critters, and will not give them up . Life is good.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi. Steven Workman. Excellent article. You’re a great writer. I know one person with COPD who walks marathons. So, you can certainly go on with your dreams despite your diagnosis.

  • WandaT
    11 months ago

    Hi Steven Workman. Your writings remind me of myself, last year. When I was diagnosed I went through all the stages; shock, numb, incredulous, denial, then fear.
    This site gave me hope. Might I recommend you read the articles written by Derek Cummings. He was diagnosed in the late 80’s and is still a vital part of this community. If you’re on Facebook, there is also We Strive to Breather Easier. A lot of support and tips to make this journey easier.
    Welcome

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Steven Workman and welcome! Thanks so much for your very candid depiction of your recent history, current impressions and plans, yes plans!, for the future. It’s a lot to digest, isn’t it.
    To know that you will be facing this with your wife, that is how you will get through and live a complete and satisfying life.
    I would urge you to complete the battery of tests. Once you have a thorough and complete diagnosis, the better your pulmonologist will be able to provide you with a treatment plan and medication regimen, as suitable.
    Once that is all in place, you can continue with your life plans – your bucket list!
    You have come to the right place, that is for certain. We have a wealth of material here – all about all things COPD.
    We are here for you, Steven, and will look forward to hearing more from you.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • wally2
    11 months ago

    helo steven, if you look at my postings you will see I , having got over shock of the illness have moved on and made a bucket list lots iv done lots I’m going todo, stay possative my friend look on here for people just like you, who will help you
    good luck
    wally

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