When I was growing up, my best friend was a little boy with asthma. Tommy, he was called. I don’t remember him well, but I remember one thing he said to me when we were on the playground together after school.
“It’s easy to take breathing for granted.”
I had seen Tommy suffering from an asthma attack before, so I knew what he was talking about in an abstract sort of way. Now, years later, I’ve come to grasp his meaning firsthand. That was one of the first things COPD taught me, but it wasn’t the last — not by a long shot.
No Easy Answers
What I learned from COPD was that in medicine, sometimes there are no easy answers. No doctor has ever been able to pinpoint exactly why I suffer from COPD-I’m not a smoker, and I haven’t been exposed to much more air pollution than average. It seems likely that I’m genetically predisposed to it, as two of my aunts suffered from similar conditions, but there’s no way to know for sure.
Likewise, there are no easy answers when it comes to the future, either. COPD can be managed, but it can’t be cured; I know the disease will eventually progress. I’m lucky enough not to have severe COPD, so I’m careful to do everything I can to slow the condition down.
COPD is marked by shortness of breath and has a wide range in terms of its severity; I fall on the milder end of the spectrum. My doctors have always encouraged me to exercise, as that will theoretically help me stay there as long as possible, but that isn’t always easy. Shortness of breath means that I have to modify exercise routines to suit my needs, which I confess I really struggled with until my doctor got someone to work with me.
In addition to exercise, it’s important that those suffering from COPD look to their overall health. COPD can cause certain conditions, but it can also be aggravated by seemingly unrelated elements like the flu. If you have COPD, it’s probably a good idea to get a flu shot every year, but you should obviously talk to your doctor first. You should also keep an eye out for signs of heart disease, as COPD can bring these about.
COPD doesn’t have to be a sentence to a short and miserable life, though. You just have to take steps to manage your condition.