When I watch movies...
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
When my wife and I see a movie these days, I often find myself watching certain things more closely than I used to.
I pay closer attention when an actor is running up a flight of stairs or walking through crowds in midtown Manhattan.
I watch as they walk along an ocean beach and then, suddenly, jump into the oncoming waves surfacing with ear to ear grins.
Until about 8 years ago, I could do all these things. And I enjoyed every single activity.
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t get a little breathless afterwards, but I didn’t think twice before doing them.
When I was finally diagnosed with Stage 4 COPD in 2011, I honestly didn’t think much of it. I had been fighting a chest infection (got them every winter like clockwork) and found that I was having great difficulty just breathing.
When the Emergency Room doctor finished examining me he asked, “How long have you had COPD?”
I replied, “COP-what?”
I stayed in the hospital for a week, prescribed various medications and then returned to work. I climbed the same subway stairs as I had for 20 years and rode commuter trains for over an hour each way.
The only difference being that I carried a tank of oxygen with me “just in case.”
We live in New Jersey and thoroughly enjoy the Four (beautiful) Seasons. We’re also blessed with 2 strong young men as sons. I mention this because that first fall/winter, 2012, I found myself unable to clean up much of the debris of Hurricane Sandy. A tree fell on our garage as did many others in our town.
When winter arrived, I attempted to shovel our walk and driveway and as I did, I felt a severe SOB within minutes. The boys could see me struggling and said, “Dad. Go inside. We’ll finish up.”
Years ago, if you’d told me I’d be relieved of shoveling duty, I’d have been ecstatic. But now, I bemoaned not being able to “carry my weight.”
That spring (2013), I sat down with my pulmonologist. He explained to me (again!) that COPD would restrict many of the activities I’d taken for granted – especially physical labor and movement.
He prescribed oxygen in portable tanks that I could “wear” as I gardened, washed the car and more. I found a simple backpack was more than adequate for the tank and I simply passed the hose/cannula through the opening made by dual zippers left slightly apart.
2014, 2015 – I sensed that I was doing less and less and in 2016, I retired. The stairs…the delays on the commuter trains, the crowds were just not as “bearable” as they were 5 years ago.
Critically important though – I knew I needed to remain physically and mentally active. I asked my pulmonologist for a prescription for pulmonary rehabilitation and he gladly provided one for 3 days a week for 3 months. He knew from prior experience that health plans will not pay for more. (Surprise! Surprise!).
2018, I’ve joined a community rehab center that provides oxygen for exercise and I attend at least twice a week. It’s a pay-as-you-go facility and the charge is about $60 a month – worth it!
I watched an iPhone video of our youngest hiking trails in Ireland that I had hiked at about the same age.
It saddens me slightly to know that my hiking, body-surfing, climbing days are over. But I know that I can still get to my rehab group, do my workout and sneak an ice-cold beer (or two – don’t tell my doctor!) in the evening as my reward.
Life is good.
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