What's in Your Toolbox? (Part 1)
Editor's note: This is part 1 of a series. Be sure to check out part 2!
Most occupations have particular tools that are necessary to perform their work. A carpenter may have hammers, measuring tapes, and nails. A teacher will have books, markers, and paper. We are no different. In order to perform our daily tasks in managing COPD, we also have tools to help us. To perform our job well, we should take advantage of all that is available to us. Let’s take a look at some of those options.
According to the COPD Foundation, pulmonary rehabilitation is defined as a program of educational classes and supervised exercise sessions for people with chronic breathing difficulty. It is designed to help you better understand your breathing, learn how to live better with your condition, and improve your strength, stamina, and endurance.
I have been to rehab twice in six years. The first time I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I was short of breath all the time. How can I exercise? Looking back, I think I was more terrified of it not working. Would I spend the remainder of my life doing nothing but gasping for air?
I may have walked into the rehab clinic terrified, but walked out the first day as if I could conquer the world, filled with hope for my future. The staff was compassionate and knowledgeable. At the end of twenty-one sessions, I was stronger, breathing better, and had much more knowledge about my disease. I now had tools I could use every day to help me live with COPD.
Exercise at home
After pulmonary rehab, it is critical to keep up with an exercise program. It is the most important tool in our COPD toolbox. Gone are the days when doctors recommended staying inactive as a treatment. A daily routine of thirty minutes is recommended and staying active will help decrease shortness of breath.
Many pulmonary rehab programs offer a maintenance program after completion for a small fee. This is a great option if you are on oxygen because it is available at their center. If you are comfortable with a gym, that is also an option. Senior centers offer classes, and there are some pulmonary rehab exercises available on YouTube.
Support groups were and still are my lifeline. COPD can be a very lonely and overwhelming illness. Few people understand what it is truly like to live with being short of breath. It is not just the physical part of the disease, but the anxiety and the other negative emotions that go with it as well.
There are in-person groups that vary from state to state and countries. You found out the locations of groups local to you at:
United States: American Lung Association
Canada: Canada Lung Association
United Kingdom: British Lung Foundation
There are also many online support groups as well. There is of course this one, COPD.net, along with their Facebook group. The COPD Foundation is another good one. There are numerous Facebook support groups, some international and others offering a smaller group, local to their location. It was very much trial and error to find the right fit for me, so don’t be afraid to join or leave as needed until you find where you are comfortable.
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