Living With COPD: When Mom Can’t Breathe

  • Mom. She can find anything, mend anything, solve anything… and do it all on nothing but a little money and a whole lot of love. If your family was / is like most, when you were growing up, your mom was the center of the household. Maybe, she was not just the center of the household – but the center of your world.

    So what happens – what it is like – when the person everybody counts on has COPD? When mom has COPD – especially if she’s young – everyday life is even more of a challenge than it would normally be.

    Here are some thoughts – a small slice of everyday life shared by four moms with COPD with children in four age ranges: Young child, teen, young adult and older adult. Everybody’s different, but one thing is for sure… COPD is a family disease. In more ways than one.  And if you’ve ever wondered if you’re the only younger mom out there with COPD, wonder no more. You’re not alone.

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    This is my kiddo's 11th birthday and we are hosting a little party for him – the first one actually since I have gotten sick. Wow – almost four years. Four years to celebrate with him and friends so we are going to see a matinee movie (I think in 3D) then out for pizza…

    My son actually had a great time, first time ever, picking out his own clothes and sneakers and backpack. Junior High here we come – ready or not, Mom! He was so proud. Funny – right now I keep looking at the time on the clock waiting for my guy to come home from his first day of Junior High…

    This morning at 2:30 a.m. my son wakes me up to watch him cook breakfast for Daddy. He made him eggs and bacon and served it to him in bed. Gee, was my husband surprised! He ate and went back to sleep! So why am I still up??…

    My son has been up all night long sicker than a dog! Let’s pray I don't get sick too…

    I know it feels different having a mom with COPD. It helps for me to talk about my son and how he is doing with me having this life…

    My daughter was a teenager, and she could tell I had trouble breathing with strenuous activities. She was a very mature teen, and always kept an eye on me, mostly after I'd been hospitalized. I always worried that I was putting too much on her, but after all, she was a teenager, and gave me plenty of grief over other teenage things.  ;-)

    Any time I have been hospitalized, she has stayed with me 24/7. When she was younger, her best friends would stay with her in the hospital, too. I am so happy that she had both my family's support, and that of her friends. Plus, her friends were always so sweet to me as well.  If anything, I would strongly urge parents of teens to foster that in their kids - the value of having a few very good, unwavering friendships. Sometimes their peers are their best support to help them not feel like they are so different or alone with their fears. It's scary when a parent can get so sick so fast.

    My children are adults. At first I assumed they’d take me with my COPD in stride – think I’d just be strong and deal with it. And I do. Really, they’re sad and angry. But they’re learning to help out more now and see that I’m okay. They think I'm fragile – and way too young. They’re liking that I'm home and not working all the hours I used to work. They’re gradually adjusting to this slower mom.

  • Brenda

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    A conversation between “Brenda,” a 56-year old mom and her friend, “Pat.”
    Brenda: How do I tell my kids I have COPD? They’re 35 and 32. I don’t want to worry them. I mean, they have their own lives, families of their own, the house, the job, the bills. And I don’t want them to feel sorry for me. I just don’t know what to do.

    Pat: You owe it to them – to respect them enough – to tell them. Otherwise, when they do find out, they might feel betrayed, like you didn’t consider them responsible or grown up enough to know.
    ~~~ later that week ~~~~

    Pat: So, how did it go?

    Brenda: I told them and it wasn’t bad at all. They kind of suspected that something was going on. They said they’re glad I told them. Relieved. Now we can go on with our lives and just enjoy being together. No excuses. No hiding. Just living.

    Thoughts on being a mom with COPD:

    • Be honest with your children about your diagnosis.
    • Assure them you’re going to do everything you can to stay as healthy as possible for a long time.
    • Reassure them that even though you might seem distracted, it is nothing they’ve done wrong, it is the disease making you uncomfortable.
    • If the cause of your COPD is genetic, explain it to your kids and have them tested.
    • Be confident that your children will probably be more mature and compassionate people because of this experience.
    • Do your best to live your life to the fullest every day.
    • Tell them you’re still their mom, and always will be. It’s just that you’re their mom who happens to have this thing called COPD.
    • Finally…something we should all do: Never, ever, pass up a chance to say, “I love you.”

    Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher and the founder and director of She is the author of Live Your Life With COPD: 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness and Hope and Breathe Better, Live in Wellness: Winning Your Battle Over Shortness of Breath.

Published On: May 05, 2011