Living With COPD

Pam DeNardoBy Pam DeNardo 

I was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in January 1999 after spending six weeks getting over pneumonia. It was at a follow-up visit that my primary care doctor said, while listening to my lungs, "I don't hear much."After all those weeks of coughing, wheezing and gurgling when I breathed, I thought that was a good thing. It was a surprise when he said, "No, it isn't a good thing."

He had already taken X-rays and checked my oxygen levels. He said he thought I had COPD. At my puzzled expression, he explained what COPD is, but all I caught was the word "emphysema." I vaguely thought of an old man with a walker and oxygen and decided the doctor was wrong. How could I have emphysema? I was still relatively young and healthy. He encouraged me to see a pulmonologist and quit smoking, and he signed me up for pulmonary rehabilitation.

I left his office in shock and partial denial—I say "partial" because, like many smokers, I was always waiting for the sky to fall. Aside from feeling weak from the pneumonia, I felt fine and healthy. I had two children, one an undergraduate in college and one working on her master's, and an aging mother, who needed me. I also owned a small business that had finally turned profitable after years of struggle. I needed to be well.

After much research and a visit with a pulmonologist, I began to understand the seriousness of my COPD. I joined a pulmonary rehab group and continued to educate myself about my disease, which was a bit of a challenge 13 years ago. There was little information available. I felt truly alone and very afraid, so I set out to take more control over my disease. I quit smoking, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and took my medications as prescribed. When pulmonary rehab was over, I continued to exercise and eat nutritiously. These helped me feel significantly better.

During my first few years with COPD, I became involved in speaking with others about COPD and working with organizations that asked me to help spread awareness. You see, I found out by then that I was lucky to have been diagnosed early. This helped me get ahead of my disease and feel better sooner.

I now work for the COPD Foundation's Information Line which educates first-time patients on all the things I had to learn by myself. Patients are empowered to do their own research to manage symptoms and learn to live and thrive with COPD.

I am proud to be a part of the COPD Foundation and encourage people to call our toll-free number at 866-316-2673, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time.

ADVERTISEMENT

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Don’t Have to Rule Your Life

Healthy eating and good communication with your doctor are key

Created With Support

Ending the Stigma Around Cancers Caused by HPV

HPV causes head and neck cancers, among others. What can we do to end the stigma around these illnesses?

Your Body

Amid COVID and Racial Unrest, Black Churches Put Faith in Mental Health Care

As Black people face an onslaught of emotions and isolation, churches play a crucial role in addressing the mental health of their members

Self-Care & Mental Health