COPD and Denial – Peg’s Story – Part 2

  • It’s been said that denial is nature’s way of giving you a good night’s sleep. Hmmm…maybe that works for a while, but not forever.

    In Part I you met Peg as she told of the start of her journey with COPD. You may have been shocked, surprised, joyful, or even disgusted. Here’s Part 2, the surprising conclusion of her story.

    My first trip to the ER for an exacerbation (which turned out to be just a panic attack) was six years after my diagnosis. It was then that I asked my specialist if I was a candidate for Pulmonary Rehab. I was. And I began. It was there that I started realizing just how ill I really was and what I had to do to regain control of my health. It wasn’t long before I started rebuilding muscle and endurance and learning more about my disease – but I still kept on smoking!

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    Before this point I had no idea that I should have a different primary care physician. My primary doc up to that point was my OB/GYN. No real help there in diagnosing and managing a serious breathing problem. I was relieved when the nurse at rehab suggested I see an internal medicine doctor. So I did. I really liked this young female doc. She actually listened to me and she seemed genuinely concerned about me – in spite of my history. This helped put me on the right track. Not long after that I was hospitalized for an exacerbation with a lung infection and went home on oxygen. It looks like I will always be on oxygen 24/7, but it could be worse.  

    I finally did quit smoking but slid back (that slide happens so easily!), quit again, went back, each time actually smoking less and less. Heck…I can’t breathe when I smoke and my weight drops off, not to mention that I need to be wheeled around in a chair because I get too weak to walk! It’s such a battle, but finally – I’m winning.

    Look at me now! I am smoke free and I no longer have a cough! I have long-term friends who never knew me without a cough. I know my COPD won’t improve much (my FEV1 is only 21 percent), but I am putting on much needed weight with my improved appetite. My physical strength is improving and my outlook will continue to get better as my strength improves and my body heals. Plus, I still have a great relationship with my doctor.

    I’ve come such a long way from that first visit with the pulmonary doctor and the diagnosis of COPD. I’ve come far in my long, and sometimes bumpy, journey from a stubborn smoker in denial – to acceptance of my disease and being able to move on and help others. After all, I have met and been cared about by so many great people including my husband, who has turned out to be a “saint” and a wonderful caregiver, and I am trying to give back. I spend several days a week now as a moderator on the Breathing Better Living Well Web site, reaching out and hopefully helping others. Also, a tremendous source of help and support is my group at Pulmonary Rehab – we all encourage each other.

    I guess as long as God is not ready for me yet, I should do what I can to help others. If I tell MY truth, it just might reach someone who needs to hear it to help them. We all have our own journey in life, but we don’t have to walk it alone. I’ve learned the hard way that the longer we live in a state of denial the more difficult it is to recover. But it can be done.  It’s not that I really want the world to know my deep, dark story of denial and stupidity, but I want to get the message out that if I can overcome, heal and go on, so can you.

  • These days the most important thing to me is spending time with my 6-year-old grandson as well as the six older grands (ages 17 to 24). I enjoy reading, card and board games, jigsaw puzzles, computer research, organizing, sewing, digital photography, floral arranging, decorating, golf, and spending quality time with my husband, family and friends. I also love to eat out and entertain at home.  

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    Just like you, a person with COPD, after diagnosis I still am many things: Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, stepmother, aunt, co-worker, cousin, supportive friend. And oh yes, I am also a person with COPD who is planning to be around for a while, living life to the fullest – but in a whole new way.

    Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher and the founder and director of and author of Breathe Better, Live in Wellness.

Published On: March 22, 2010