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COPD Newbie

Last summer my younger brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Ten days later he was dead. He was 60 years old and had smoked for 42 years.

After his funeral I made an appointment with a pulmonologist to see if I had lung cancer. The doctor said I did not have cancer but I did have emphysema. I was 65 and like my brother had smoked for 42 years.

The doctor prescribed a nebulizer and Albuterol, which I used occasionally. My shortness of breath was bothersome but certainly not life-threatening. Twelve months later all that changed.

The summer of 2016 blew in like a hurricane. Events seemed to conspire to knock me off my game, to knock me down, and I’m still wondering three months later if I’m down for the count or what.

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but I do notice things, such as the fact that all three events that seemed to conspire against me occurred on or around June 20th, the first day of summer, also known as the summer solstice or longest day of the year.

First there was the stuck brake pedal switch, which took a week and several hundred dollars to identify as the source of my car trouble. Then there was the broken driver’s side door handle, which took another week and several hundred dollars to fix. Finally, there were the fleas. I improperly set off a can of Raid and got hit squarely in the face with the spray.

The stress of these three events combined with the South Texas heat made me sick. I started using the nebulizer every four hours. When I finally got to see the pulmonologist after a three-week wait, she sent me to the hospital for testing. A cat scan revealed a 4.6 cm aneurysm on my aorta. A thoracic surgeon informed me that open-heart surgery is inevitable with this condition.

I’m only three months into this new limited lifestyle. Showering and getting dressed are difficult now. Stairs take my breath away. I get those awful rib cramps a lot. I used to wake up with headaches, but the oxygen at night has helped with that. I still wake up every four hours with a tightness in my chest and an inability to yawn, so I get up, put Ipratropium and Albuterol in my nebulizer, and spend 20 minutes inhaling those, every four hours, night and day. I bought a second nebulizer and an adaptor for my car in the event of a power outage. I’ve started using the riding buggies at the grocery store.

I’d like to think this is one of those “flare-ups” I’ve read about. I’d like to think that I will get better at some point, but it doesn’t feel like that’s going to happen. I’m grateful, nonetheless, for the medical help I’ve received and for this website. The stories and information I get here are so helpful. Thank you, all who participate.

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.


  • bassman
    3 years ago

    Hi everyone I’m new on this site. Need people who have copd to talk to. Diagnosed 2 years ago and got ssdi,depressed and anxious lately. Please help.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Bassman – you’ve come to the right place. You have access to our website here on I would suggest you check out our Facebook page, as well. You can find it here:
    There you will find an entire community of members who are constantly interacting about all things COPD.
    We’re glad you found us!
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • PHILBE author
    3 years ago

    Hi Juebal. It took me a year and a half to quit smoking. I’ll tell you how I did it. First, it started with an intention. I always intended to quit when I turned 60, so that was the start of it. I found, as you have, that quitting was very difficult. I told myself that I would take as much time as I needed to quit, but I would work on it every day.

    What seemed to satisfy a lot of the impulses involved in reaching for and lighting a cigarette was simply to hold the smoke in my mouth but not inhale it. I was able to do that fairly easily. This gave my lungs the break they needed. Also, I would take only a puff or two before putting the cigarette out in one of those little snuffer things.

    I did this for a year and a half, reminding myself daily that I would stop eventually. On Easter Sunday 2012 I realized I was through smoking cigarettes. Quitting hadn’t hurt a bit.

  • juebal
    3 years ago

    Hi, I’m new to this. I was diagnosed with cold in February and have been given no information. My spirometry was up to 1.25/2.6 wit FEV1 of 66% predicted with saturations of 97%, after having been on medication, I’m assuming this is good!

    I’ve just had a bad spell and been off of work for 2 weeks with a 3rd coming up! I never have more than 1 or 2 days sick leave! Is this just the start?

    I realise I’m not helping myself, as I’m still smoking! Even though I know what the future holds its not enough to give it up! That frightens me more than what’s to come!

    I’ve had 2 episodes of hypoxia and now (hopefully) know how to cope with it. I now feel I can give support as well as need support to move on.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Juebal and welcome. It sounds like you have some information about yourself from some diagnostic procedures (your pulmonary function test results as you related them), but it’s not clear what your physician and health care team have told you. I would urge you to select a good physician or specialist to provide you with a thorough examination, work up, diagnosis and treatment plan. That will also help us to assist you. You will find a wealth of information here on our website. And of course, thinking about quitting smoking – well, that puts you on the right track. You are always welcome here. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • cassell
    3 years ago

    Frankly, after four years of being stage 3, I have little faith left in pulmonologists. Seems you gotta figure it out by yourself. Things they should know about, they don’t. I find alot of very valuable info the the net. Keep searching and you’ll find what you need. Sleeping is very important for a copd patient. Perhaps you should consider a sleep test. I did, and found my sleep was interrupted at least 16 times per hour.Not a good way to rest! A CPAP machine changed my life and gave me the energy I need to meet each day. Is is hard to get used to? Yes, it can be. But worth it. I look forward to sleep now, with the CPAP I can breathe… you also may need oxygen 24/7…and give up all toxic chemicals, Raid is a big time toxic. No perfumes, use only distilled white vinegar for cleaning. It works. No paint, realllllly bad for lungs. Keep learning. Also ask the doc about using Brovana and/or Advair, or Budesinide in your nebulizer?

  • PHILBE author
    3 years ago

    Thank you for responding with so many suggestions. Details like these are so helpful. I’ve wondered about the Clorox and ammonia I use to clean with but didn’t know what to use instead. Will switch to white vinegar now. I miss a good night’s sleep more than anything. Before June 20th I averaged about ten hours straight. Since then I haven’t slept more than 4-5 hours at a stretch. I can’t tell that the oxygen does anything for me. I use it anyway to help protect my organs. I haven’t seen the pulmonologist since the first time I went in last summer. He is only in the office on Thursdays and only sees new patients then. The rest of the time he’s at the hospital. I see his nurse when I go in, which is difficult b/c the parking lot is sloped. Walking uphill with emphysema to see a lung specialist is ridiculous!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Philbe and welcome to our website. First, I want to extend my condolences on the loss of your dear brother.
    The events that you then describe are very challenging and my heart goes out to you as you now deal with your medical future. Although I’m quite certain it can seem daunting for you, I would urge you to ‘stay the course’. It appears that you have a good understanding and picture of what is happening to you and what you are facing down the road.
    We are always here to help and lend support to you in any way that we can. Please let me (or any other moderator) know if there is anything specific we can assist you with.
    Also, please feel free to visit our website any time and as often as you like. You may also find it helpful to check out our Facebook page: I’m sure you will find the conversations and information there to be interesting and informative as well as stimulating.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

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