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Emphysema Gives Me the “Creeps”

I’m a 64 year old woman who was diagnosed with stage 2 (now I’m stage 3) emphysema three years ago. I smoked for many years but quit in 1999. And though I was shocked to learn I had emphysema to the point where I didn’t quite believe it in the beginning, I realize now that it had been creeping up on me the last eight years. Around 2011, I noticed that couldn’t wear turtle necks or anything that was a little tight around my neck. It surprised me because it had never bothered me before. I even thought that maybe I had a thyroid problem and had the Dr. test me for it. My thyroid was fine. I believe now that my body was telling me something back then. It was telling me I wasn’t getting the oxygen I use to get and I shouldn’t make it anymore difficult to do so.

Then in 2013, I came down with the flu. As I laid in bed having the hardest time trying to breathe, I wondered if I could die from it. And I thought naw because I never died from asthma. (I should interject here that I’ve had asthma on and off since I was a teenager). I recovered but noticed that I couldn’t climb these stairs at this parking garage that my husband and I would park at when we went to the movies. I use to take them with no problem. I thought it was probably just age and since I only go to the movies twice a year I was ok with it being my “just getting older”.

Things became interesting, though, in 2014. I started a new job and there were stairs that I had to take to and from the break room. Going downstairs I was fine but coming up..when I’d get to top of the stairs it felt like my heart was coming through my chest and I couldn’t catch my breath. It was a horrible feeling. A feeling that made me realize this just wasn’t old age or asthma. This was something else entirely. In fact, I thought it was my heart. My father at the age of 51 had triple by-passes so I knew that heart disease was in the family (BTW, he’s still alive at 92!). So, I just didn’t take the steps up anymore. I did that for about a year. I didn’t want to go to the Dr. and be diagnosed with heart disease. To make a long story short, I ,finally, did go to the Dr. and told him what I thought. They did chest X-rays and tested my heart. All the heart tests came back ok. The chest X-rays, however, showed moderate emphysema. Emphysema?? No one in my family ever had that. Oh well, that’s how emphysema creeped up on me. I still catch myself sometimes wondering if I really do have it or if it’s just a bad case of asthma. Other times, oh I know I have it. It’s not hiding in the shadows anymore.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Ginny13
    8 months ago

    I didn’t realize I was sick until it put me in the hospital. I had gotten so used to compensating for most of my life. In my mind I could always find a “logical” explanation for my issue at any time. (Denial)
    I also figured that if I didn’t go to the doctor than I wouldn’t have to hear any Bad News. It worked for a while but I now have to admit I need these doctors in my life to keep me going as long as possible.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Ginny13 and thanks for your post. We appreciate you sharing your past, present, and planned future with this condition. Glad to hear you understand more about COPD to make certain you don’t hold back and wait prior to calling the doctor. The more familiar you are with your own specific condition, the better able you will be to seek medical assistance in a timely way. This, in turn, should facilitate earlier treatment and avoid symptoms worsening. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Ginny13, It is common story that I hear from many. I too did the same thing. I wasted too many years not getting the proper diagnosis because I was too scared to hear that I was sick. Its too bad but now that I have a diagnosis, I can stop the downward spiral and start caring for myself

    . Barbara (site moderator)

  • Linnie
    10 months ago

    My bras around my chest seen to inhibit my breathing as well.

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi Linnie ,
    I hear you on the bra thing. Bra’s are overrated and i have not worn one for over 3 years. A camisole under your shirt should do just fine. No point in aggravating an annoying situation.
    Barbara Moore (site Moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi Linnie and thanks for your post. We’ve had similar posts from other (female) community members who’ve expressed similar sentiments. If that’s the case, are you able to go without wearing one? Do you think that would help? Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Ginny13
    8 months ago

    At home I try to avoid wearing one but unfortunately all parts of my body increased in size over the past few years back to my high school days. The cooler weather is good because I can wear a loose sweatshirt to hide them but in the warmer weather I have no choice.

  • Linnie
    10 months ago

    My breathing is very labored with stage 4 COPD and emphysema. I cannot wear turtle neck anything and I used to love to wear them when I could. I understand.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    10 months ago

    You’re not alone in the “turtle neck” issue, Linnie. For someone that has problems breathing, anything around their neck (or chest as you mentioned in another comment) can feel like it’s restricting their ability to take a breath. I’m sure many people can sympathize.

    Best,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Ginny13
    8 months ago

    I am so glad it’s not just me being weird or trying to create an issue.

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    12 months ago

    COPD is a disease that does creep up on us, and makes it easy to live in denial while giving up tasks that cause us to exert ourselves.
    It is a comfort to know that COPDer’s live many years in each stage of this disease,
    Barbara Moore ( site moderator)

  • Linnie
    12 months ago

    I have found out that I cannot wear my bra or even a sports bra. I cannot wear anything tight around my chest. Is anyone with me out there????

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi Linnie and thanks for your comment. Although I cannot provide any personal insight for your concern, I thought you might want to post your inquiry in our question and answers section, which you can access here: https://copd.net/q-and-a/.
    That forum may provide more opportunity for members to reply to your question. What do you think?
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi SharonB and welcome! We really appreciate you sharing you experiences with developing COPD and how it’s affected you (as it crept up on you) and today. You’ve certainly found the right place as our site is all about all things COPD. We’ll look forward to your continued participation in our online community. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

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