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Anyone with stage 4 COPD will remember the time that they seemed to be walking around alright, just slightly out of breath on exertion, being able to shop, clean up; taking a shower or bath was a piece of cake and although just a bit more tired than you used to be things weren’t too bad. An exacerbation at this time only involved a few days on antibiotics and no visit to the A & E. Then, suddenly this terrible thing happened and you could no longer walk about as freely as you did or for a matter of fact do anything you were once able to do. It feels like at this time the disease has come around given you a good slap in the face shouting ‘I’m here, this is it now you can’t ignore me any more and I am not going away’!

At this point in the disease lots of patients leave work, stop doing many of the things that they used to do and physically start to give in to the disease. Dr. Kemp, one of my chest specialists, explained this to me last week nicely. He said, ‘you keep compensating, compensating, compensating and compensating until the point comes that you can no longer compensate any further’, I think of this as falling off the precipice.

At this point because you have stopped working, socialising, popping to your local shop and doing all the things you liked and enjoyed doing before you become so unconditioned this cycle continues until you are barely doing anything. It can become so bad that some people are having to have oxygen sooner than they should. This new breathlessness can become very debilitating and you can also gain a lot of weight; perhaps you have given up smoking and with the constant courses of steroids the weight has got out of control which also complicates the situation further. It can feel as if every day you have your back against the wall and it can and does in many cases lead to depression. And YES more breathlessness! You can feel so alone because no one really understands what you are going through. Your family may say, come on go on a diet and lose weight and get to the gym. Not very helpful!


So, the first thing on your list to claw back some of your fitness (and life) would be obviously to lose weight. I know it is easier said than done because I am in that predicament right now! Starting to lose weight and getting into some kind of exercise routine is very hard when you find breathing difficult. I often think how come I managed to stop smoking, which required loads of will power but this weight loss thing seems to be slipping out of my grasp all the time?

Before I can take up a really good exercise program, I would like to get off at least half of my excess weight. But, you still need to incorporate some safe exercise whilst you are losing this weight and I have contacted my local pulmonary rehab nurses and will be starting with them as soon as possible. I know it is going to be a slow process climbing back up this precipice and I will need all the help that I can get. I am aware also though that it will be absolutely worth it!

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.


  • domino
    3 years ago

    Yes agree with you totally. My husband in same situation. Has had copd for 4 years. Quit smoking immediately. Taking his meds, going along normal, no oxygen all those years, then last 2 months the brick wall hit him. Oxygen only at night with c-pap machine. Now oxygen 24/7. Pulmonary rehab for 8 weeks completed. Yes the tanks are a pain in the ass but it can be done on whatever your levels are at. Exercise every day and watch utube videos with Noah Greenspan you learn a lot. Join the copd support groups on line and keep active as long as possible. Breath easy everyone.

  • girlbybay
    3 years ago

    Hello I am walking sometimes solid wheezing by end of it, want to try to get stem cell therapy anyone know anyone who have tried this/////////

  • cgainer
    3 years ago

    I am so glad that someone posted this perspective. I was doing fine on June 4, 2016. I worked all of that day in my flower beds and attended a concert with a friend the following day. One June 6 I could not walk from my bed to the kitchen without gasping for air.

    I am now on oxygen 24/7 and still trying to get back to that June 4 state. I am one of those people who struggle to keep on the weight. I have stabilized my weight, but continue to have to force myself out of bed.

  • Jenn Patel
    3 years ago

    Hi cgainer,

    Thanks so much for sharing how you’re doing – I’m so sorry to hear about what you’re going through.

    I thought this article on fatigue might be helpful, since you mentioned having to force yourself out of bed: as well as this one from our writer Derek:

    You’re certainly not alone in this fight! Please do come by any time for info, support, and/or to let us know how you’re doing! We’ll be thinking of you.

    Jenn (Community Manager,

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Ginaapple and thanks for posting your views on perceived changes in COPD entitled: “Falling Off The Precipice” in the “Stories” section(above).

    This story of yours “Falling Off The Precipice”, which you posted today, is very similar in its sentiment, to the story posted by Derek Cummings, back on December 30, 2015, entitled “The COPD Bump”. I found it extremely interesting to read your views on the changes to one’s COPD condition as it provided further depth after reviewing Derek’s article.

    I thought it would be helpful for people to read Derek’s views too, if they haven’t already. His article, “The COPD Bump”, can be found here:
    I plan to put a link to ‘Falling Off The Precipice’, in his story too, which should keep both of them linked for future reference.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi (again) Ginaapple. It’s my pleasure. I was looking forward to you reading Derek’s article since it expresses a lot of the same sentiment that you wrote about, but in a different way – that’s what makes both articles so interesting.

    I want to wish you all the best on your upcoming lung reduction surgery. I hope you will check back with us and let us know how you’re doing.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Ginaapple author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for your feedback and I will be interested to read Dereks article and yes the change from moderate to severe seems to be very quick. It was something that I found hard to understand. I then spoke to a consultant in London at the Royal Brompton where I am having my Lung Reduction Surgery and he explained it like that and I then understood what had happened. Hopefully by losing weight and taking exercise as I am doing I may get to climb back up that hill again a little.

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