Lack of COPD Symptoms
Last updated: July 2021
Like the author of a recent story about awareness about COPD may have led to being diagnosed earlier, I grew up in a home where both parents smoked. My grandfather and aunt as well. Lost grandpa to oat cell lung cancer in 1967 when I was 12. Because it was normal to be around smokers as a child I became a smoker as well. I did not see my grandfather at his worse as the cancer took him fast.
Major health issues in the family
Smoking while serving 21 years in the Navy was also normal as was drinking lots of coffee. My mom stopped smoking just a few months before diagnosed with lung cancer. She died 8 years later. It was difficult to see her struggling the last few months of her life. My dad finally quit after heart attack number 2 at age 69. My aunt quit in her early 50's and managed to avoid COPD and lung cancer.
Battle with quitting smoking
One would have thought with that family history I would have quit smoking long before I did. But I was always under stress and cigarettes was my go-to relaxation habit. I used the stress as an excuse in my mind not to quit as would only stress me even more. I quit smoking not because I was having COPD symptoms but because a heart cath in 2011 eventually led to a need to stent my right coronary artery in Aug 2014. I quit with the help of Chantix and thought I was clear as had no symptoms of lung issues. No constant respiratory infections. No shortness of breath.
Finally seeing a pulmonary doctor
But 3 years after I quit I started to have shortness of breath on exertion. Since I still had a milder blockage in my left coronary artery, also seen in 2011, I thought it was my heart. Saw my cardiologist and after a cardiac stress test and echocardiogram, she said my heart was healthy. She referred me to a pulmonary doctor. I delayed going for a few months as I felt whatever the pulmonary doctor would find would not be good. When a family trip to Gatlinburg, TN left me struggling to keep up with 4 active grandson's and my son noticed me struggling, I made that appointment as soon as we got back.
Scan, scan, repeat
That was in 2018. I was not only diagnosed as having emphysema and mild asthma I was stunned when told it was classified as severe COPD based on my PFT results. Did not expect it to be that bad as it seems to develop quickly. A year later in 2019 was diagnosed with lung cancer caught in stage one because of my pulmonary doctor. He made sure starting in 2018 I also had an annual lung cancer screening CT. I probably would not have noticed thinking any new symptoms were my COPD.
Trying to live life to the fullest
I have always been very in tune with my body but all of this pretty much blindsided me. However, I can say my "intuition" that something wasn't right has proven to be invaluable. I believe because I did know my body well it saved my life for now. Not sure what my future holds but if I have any say I will do what needs to be done to maintain a quality of life and stick around on this earth for at least a good 10 years or more. At age 66 I am not ready to leave.
Do you know the difference between a COPD exacerbation and lung function decline?
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