I grew up with both my parents smoking (in the house) and all the adult relatives. There were ash trays in every room. I started smoking in high school around age 15. I continued to breathe second hand smoke and smoke cigarettes myself for 42 years! In the year 2008 I had come down with a bad cold and it quickly went into my chest. It turned into bronchitis very quickly for me. In fact I noticed that for a few years prior to that each time I caught a cold it became bronchitis every time and each year it was lasting longer and longer. The cough was horrible. In the year 2008 I was so sick running a fever and so weak. I continued to go to work everyday and my co-workers kept suggesting I go see my doctor.

I finally did and she sent me to the emergency room telling me she thought I had pneumonia. Emergency room Dr, after looking at my chest x-ray, informed me I did not have pneumonia but I had acute bronchitis. But he also said my lungs were beginning to expand and I was on my way to emphysema. I was so scared. You would think that would be enough to make me quit smoking! First thing I did when he discharged me to go home with a handful of prescriptions was light up a cigarette. I had been in the ER for hours and I was craving a cigarette so much. I was so incredibly addicted to my smoking habit. I really honestly believed I could not function as a non-smoker. So I continued to smoke for another 4 years until December 12, 2012. During that 4 years I tried my hardest to not see any doctors. They only give me bad news and it scared me.

I kept getting short of breath at home just trying to do everyday activities like housework. It continued to get worse. Trying to walk from my car into a store I would be so short of breath I would have to stop and gasp for air pretending I was looking for something in my purse so no one would know I was having trouble breathing. And I kept getting sick with bronchitis and was forced to have to go see a dr. So what I figured out is if I went to an urgent care 20 minutes before they would close at night I could get seen and get a prescription for antibiotics I so desperately needed. I am married and have 7 children and at that time had 10 grand kids (there's 12 grand kids now) . One of my adult daughters I had not seen for about 6 months when seeing me at a birthday party was so upset telling me I looked like a skeleton and that I had lost a ton of weight and looked like something was terribly wrong with me! Of course it scared me and just added to my fear of how I was feeling.

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In October of 2012 I became really sick with bronchitis again so I visited an urgent care again to get medication to clear it up. A few days later a new symptom was added to my misery. And when I say misery I mean misery! I was so miserable just new in my gut I was now dealing with just bronchitis. I was so severely short of breath, extremely weak and now starting to get swollen in my feet and ankles. I absolutely loved my job as a cafeteria manager at an elementary school. I never missed work even through sickness. Now I couldn't work . It devastated me emotionally. Staying busy was one of my coping skills to keep my bad health off my mind. Now I had to go see my doctor. After some testing she sent me to the hospital on December 12 2012. She wanted to send me via an ambulance because my count on my lab tests showed I had congestive heart failure. I talked her into letting my mom drive me and promised I would go quickly. We stopped at my house to pick up a few things to take with me knowing I was going to be staying and of course I smoked a couple cigarettes then I couldn't even walk without help. I was getting weaker by the minute and now so swollen my legs were so heavy I couldn't walk without help. I could hardly breath. One of my sons and son in law helped me to my mom's car. At that point I gave away my cigarettes to my son in law who was a smoker and knew deep inside me I would never smoke again.

At the hospital my oxygen concentration level was 79 at rest. I really thought I was going to die. It was there I met my pulmonary dr who gave me the diagnosis of severe emphysema. After a week of medications and now on oxygen they released me to go home with oxygen. And while still in the hospital my niece sent me a message she felt God wanted her to share with me. It was a paragraph from a devotional she had read that morning. All these years I had wanted to be a functional non smoker but just knew my addiction was so much stronger then me. I didn't think I could live without cigarettes. But something changed that day. What I read told me to draw from the strength of God who lived inside of me. I am a Christian and believe my body is the temple of God because the bible actual tells us this to be true. So I did change my focus from my problems (my heath and my addiction to cigarettes, to His strength and asked for guidance). I have not smoked another cigarette since.

Someone from respiratory came into my hospital room to tell me about pulmonary rehab for later after I got stronger. 2 months later I went to pulmonary program. It was classroom time learning all about COPD and all the things to do to live a healthier lifestyle and be the strongest I could be with exercise. I could barely walk and could not even imagine how I could exercise. I had never been on a treadmill in my life. I have a lot to live for. I love spending time with my kids and grand kids. I have always enjoyed camping and I absolutely love the beach. I hadn't enjoyed much of that for many years as my health declined over the years. I avoided doing a lot of things because I wasn't feeling well and was so short of breath. With just using the oxygen I started feeling better day by day. Then in February two months after being discharged from the hospital I started pulmonary rehab. I embraced every word I learned there. I learned so much. And there is where they slowly started me exercising.

I continued at the maintenance program after finishing the pulmonary rehab. I love those respiratory therapists I worked with. They helped me get stronger and regain my life back. I absolutely love my pulmonary dr. He is a very caring compassionate man and has taken very good care of me. I am on 2 inhalers daily and see my doctor on a regular schedule now. I now exercise at home, eat heathy, drink lots of water, wash my hands often (to keep the germs down) get good sleep every night ,stay clear of things that I know trigger my breathing and use my oxygen. It was difficult for me at first to go out with my oxygen but slowly it got easier. I visit those respiratory therapists just to say hi they feel like family to me. I am determined to use every bit of information I learned to live life to the fullest. I go on camping trips in our trailer so I can run my oxygen concentrator machine at night and I use my small tanks during the day while out, I go to the beach and can honestly say I am living a blessed life a day at a time! I am determined to stay active and keep moving forward daily.

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.

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