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.”
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.
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.
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?