With brown waist-length hair, smooth skin, and happy eyes, Laura doesn't look her age. At first glance you'd think she's a very young, healthy 48, but her lungs tell a different story. Laura has severe COPD. In this, the third and final part of our series "Young with COPD," we sit down and talk with Laura. Her take on being Young with COPD might surprise you; it might make you laugh or cry, but without a doubt it will teach you something about living.
Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed with COPD?
A: I was 47.
Q: Did you know what COPD was?
A: Not at all.
Q: What were your very first thoughts?
A: I have what? Now what? Quit smoking and work out a lot? Surgery?
Q: Did you go through a period of denial, thinking, "There must be some mistake."
A: Not so much, because I had known for a while (a few years) that something wasn't right with my breathing and coughing. I knew, from watching everyone around me not having any difficulty like I did in some situations, that I was hurting.
Q: Okay, but why did you not seek help earlier? What kept you from that?
A: Honestly, I thought it was from smoking and being around nasty chemicals, and that once I would give up smoking and exercise more, it would go away. And I didn't want to take time to go to the doctor or take medicine.
Q: What finally brought you to the doctor?
A: My coughing a lot and not speaking very well (I was out of breath so fast). I would take a shower and end up coughing when I got out to dry myself, and when eating dairy products the phlegm would build up almost instantly. I would cough so hard I would have to have a pad on (so much for my hysterectomy!) I have to now wear granny undies when I go away or if I drink beer.
Q: How do your kids feel about you having COPD?
A: My children are adults. At first I assumed they'd take it 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.
Q: How about your husband?
A: (She smiles and laughs.) He still loves me so far! He didn't expect this and is slowly adjusting to it. He's glad we found out when we did and can stall it, hopefully. He thinks it's a good thing that it finally made me stop smoking. He's only 37, so I thought it would be hard because I don't participate in a lot of things we did five years ago when we got married. But he's dealing with it and trying to make it the best he can for both of us... and he says that no matter what... I'm still his bride!
Q: What has been the worst thing so far about having COPD?
A: My regular doctor has not been helpful, and Social Security has been a huge hassle. I have worked hard and long hours in factories for 30 years, raised two children, and have never had help. Now I need some help. My insurance has been tough. The bill for my medicines each month (with insurance) is around $125 - and I do holler!