Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

A surprising diagnosis

One year ago I moved from the east coast to northern Arizona. Newly retired, I was eager to take advantage of all of the outdoor activities, especially horseback riding and hiking. But I found that I was having trouble breathing and began to cough constantly. I thought it was the altitude. When I saw a doctor he gave me a rescue inhaler and took a chest x-ray; he wanted to rule out “Valley Fever” a sometime infection of the lungs that infects newcomers to the area. He also sent me to a cardiologist for a full work-up. The cardiologist cleared me of any heart issues (thank goodness), and referred me back to a new general practitioner. This new doctor sent me for a CT scan of my lungs, and to my surprise, it showed mild emphysema in both lungs. I thought that because I quit smoking 30 years ago that I would be “safe” from lung disease. Now I’m on meds, feeling better. Even though the diagnosis of COPD was a shock, I’m determined to be as well as I can. This online community is just what I needed for education and encouragement. Thank you all, Mary

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.


  • Baron
    1 year ago

    An early diagnosis is key to keep this awful disease at bay for as long as humanly possible. I was diagnosed with Emphysema just over 10 years ago but the signs and symptoms were there long before a local doctor suspected the underlying cause behind my persistent cough. Heavy smokers often refer to their “smokers cough” as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to endure, but it’s clear to me that it probably represents the first clue that something isn’t ‘quite right’ down there. COPD awareness in the UK was certainly no-where near the level as in the USA, yet given our industrial past and our heavy reliance on coal fired domestic heating and resulting smog hazes over our major cities, you would have thought it a no-brainer that people of our generation grew up with compromised lung function which was obviuously exacerbated by heavy smoking habits. The result of this late diagnosis was fairly obvious: I became really ill, really quickly. They say that the first time you notice an unusual shortness of breath, you have already lost 50% lung function. Within a few short years, my FEV1 was down to 17% and it’s due in no short measure to the excellent drug regime I am now on that I manage to function at all. So the message is clear: Early diagnosis is key and whatever happens Quit Smoking! if only out of respect for your health care providers. Better still, don;t even start.

  • nedra
    2 years ago

    This site has been so helpful for me to understand what is happening to me and helped me learn how to deal with what’s happening on a daily basis. Hope the same for you

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi nedra and thanks for the kind words. We strive to be a source of information and support for our community members. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Janet Plank moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Mary,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. This is also educational for others as it brings awareness. I hope that you are getting along okay.

    Have a breathe-easy night!
    Janet (site moderator)

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    2 years ago


    Thank you for sharing your story with the community! We are so pleased to have you here! Congratulations on being smoke-free for over thirty years! That is no small accomplishment and certainly helped keep your lungs functioning better for as long as they have. I echo Lyn, with having caught it early, the meds you are on and your determination to learn and live as fully as possible, I am sure you will do well managing your COPD. Reach out anytime you have a question or need support. We are always here to listen! If you haven’t discovered it yet, the facebook community for this site is also a great place for support and information, both from moderators and other members:

    Best, Allyson (site moderator)

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Mary – thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m so happy they caught the COPD when they did, since I’m sure with the meds you’re on you’ll be able to manage it very well. I hope you also find the climate to make a difference as well. Many people with COPD find the dry, arid desert climate serves them well. Arizona is one of my favorite places – we’ve considered a move there ourselves. Maybe one day. Each winter I tell myself it’s the last one!

    So glad you found this online community – we’re so happy to have you.

    Lyn (moderator)

  • Poll