Finding My Way Back
It has been seven years since my respiratory failure and two-month hospital stay. I was discussing that time in my life with a friend the other day. I forget how far I have come, not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well.
The turning point
As much as I would like to forget that first year, I think it does us good to remember the struggles to appreciate overcoming them. Perhaps it is because the changes have been subtle and gradual. I don’t always realize I am physically stronger doing a particular task until it is pointed out to me.
Pulmonary rehabilitation was my turning point. It provided that light at the end of the tunnel. Twenty-one weeks at three days per week showed me that life could get better. I felt hope again. Then the crash! Without a place to go and the supervision, I took a few steps backward in my recovery. Always finding a reason not to continue exercising, breathing became very difficult again.
I can’t say when it all came together for me. I think it was a combination of events. It was the right article, the right support group, the right motivational speech that made me sit up and say, “Enough of this. I want my life back.”
The road ahead
Before my mom passed away from cancer, she said she knew she didn’t have to worry about me. I always landed on my feet. I wasn’t so sure this time, but I have always lived my life with an upbeat and positive mindset. It may waiver at times, but it always returns. I think it has been my most important tool in living with COPD.
I certainly made many mistakes along the way. It is difficult for me to make exercise a priority. I know I must. I consider it as important as the inhalers I take daily and the oxygen that keeps me alive. It keeps me breathing easier and I know it. I feel it. Yet, it is something I will always have to push myself to do every single day.
Exercising became less of a burden when I stopped comparing myself to what others with COPD could do. I tried to keep up a few times with the more athletic and only hurt myself. Over time, I found my own routines that fit me, my health, and my lifestyle.
Do you feel like you're a different person since your COPD diagnosis?
A new discovery
For a very long time, my goal was to get my life back. As months turned into years of living with this disease, I no longer wanted to go back. A new person had emerged from the struggles and I kind of liked her! There has been a lot of journaling, a lot of reading motivational and spiritual books, a lot of meditating, and a great deal of soul searching.
Living life with COPD, or any chronic illness, changes us. We can give in to it or find a new way. I know I will always be short of breath. It is the major symptom of this disease. It will provide some physical limitations. I will probably always be on oxygen. I am thankful that because of hard work through the years, my oxygen use is less.
There will be bad days. Everyone has them. I don’t like them, but I accept them. That has been key to me, acceptance. Some things I cannot change with medicine, exercise, or diet. They just are. I know I am doing my best to manage this disease so I can live my life with the attitude of - the best is yet to come!
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