With parents who smoked I prided myself on the fact that I was smoke-free. I avoided cigarettes like the plague. Ironically, eight years ago, my doctor told me I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. How could someone who had never smoked end up with COPD?
It all began 10 years ago with a repeated lung infection. The doctors diagnosed it as bronchitis. At the time, I was my my 40s, found myself with repeated cases of bronchitis. It began with one bout per winter, then advanced to three or four per year. Between doctor visits and emergency room trips, I had the entire treatment protocol for bronchitis down as well as any Pulmonary Doctor. The doctors finally stated I had adult onset asthma and prescribed Proventil inhalers for emergency use. I still had no idea I had COPD until the next winter. After that winter of trying to battle bronchitis and still teach school, I asked my doctor what was the cause of my lung issues? He stated COPD and explained that I have what is called chronic bronchitis. It is more prevalent in those who smoke but my doctor explained he thought it was due to repeated lung infections. Damage had been done to my left lung, which now showed up on x-rays as lung scaring.
Now that I knew I had COPD, what was the treatment so I could live as normal a life as possible? My doctor stated it had been caught early but would require frequent doctor visits, a specialist and medication. He added that I would probably be on medication for the rest of my life. The goal was to limit the future infections to reduce or eliminate any future damage to my lungs. I was prescribed Advair for daily use and Proventil for emergency use. I was also given a neubulizer machine and Proventil inhalation viles for the machine. I was to use the nebulizer for severe attacks of asthma and bronchitis. I was prescribed steroids when each bout of bronchitis was diagnosed. My heart decided to start doing dances and skipping beats soon after, so I was changed to Pulmicort but remained on the Proventil . The medication works, as every year I have less episodes of bronchitis. This past winter, I have only had one episode, which only required antibiotics.
How My Life Has Changed
Even though my chronic bronchitis is under control, the damage has been done. I have had to make changes in my life style and curtail my physical activity. I was angry that I could no longer compete against our sons in a 100 yard pool race. I became upset when vacuuming the entire house became almost impossible. I finally decided to come to terms, make changes and learn to live with COPD. I can still do physical activities, I just have to pace myself. Instead of trying to beat my now grown children with a 100 meter pool race, I compete for a 50 yard pool race. Who says you need to vacuum your entire house in one hour? I now vacuum parts over a couple of days. Whether it is COPD or a new job, changes are inevitable. When I realized this, life with COPD became easier.
I am always happy to give tips for those living with COPD. Slow down and adjust your life style. Follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medications as prescribed. But most importantly, focus your energy on those things you can do and don’t fret over the things you can’t. COPD doesn’t mean an end to your life, but merely a new life with a few changes!