COPD and Denial: A Common Thread - Part 1

Health Professional

Funny thing"I didn't choose to write about this subject, denial. It chose me. When you work with, and listen - listen hard - long enough to people with COPD, you learn a few things. When I was researching my book, Breathe Better, Live in Wellness, and listening to the stories of people with COPD, people from all walks of life, all ages, from all over the country, I discovered that there was one common thread connecting every story. Denial.
But for me writing the stories wasn't the end of learning about denial. It was just the beginning. Since I wrote the last word in that book, I've continued to hear people talk about denial, BC (their lives before COPD) and WC (with COPD). [Note how I don't say AC, after COPD, because we're just not ready to go there]   And it made me wonder if the patients I personally know, just those few, have experienced so much agony and so many tears working through denial, I can only imagine how many others out there are feeling the same way.

It is my hope that this series of shareposts   will bring this monster, denial, out of the shadows, help you feel less alone - and light your way to live a full and happy life - WC!

I work with COPD, but I don't have it myself. So how can I tell you about working through and coping with denial? Well, I can't. But, I can bring you the stories of those who have - those who have captured the monster, named it, and conquered it.

Meet Travis, a West Michigan businessman with a drive to work hard and keep on going, no matter what. Here, in his own words, he gives us a glimpse of a fascinating timeline on his long road to better breathing. This is the beginning of his story. Coming up, we'll look at Part II.

Let me start with a few flash backs that seem to make sense now.

1974...age 31...I didn't have any problems.   We were moving into a new house and my father, a healthy non-smoker of 71, was helping me carry things.   After moving one particularly heavy desk a relatively short distance he was left gasping for air.   I never thought much of this until recently.   He was never diagnosed with a breathing disorder. He died of congestive heart failure four years later.

1982...age 39...I didn't have any problems. We were skiing at Alta. A big snow fell and we were out first thing in the morning. I made a run to the bottom and fell in heap.   After catching my breath I tried to get up but the snow was too deep and I just wallowed around. It took me ten minutes of struggling and resting to finally get back to my feet.   I thought I was going to faint.

1997...age 54...I didn't have any problems. I was at one of my daughter's high school basketball games...a championship at stake. A see-saw game with the crowd going wild. I all of the sudden realized that after a cheer I had nothing left in my lungs. Gulp, gulp, a little air, please.

2004...age 61...I finally had a hunch that there was something wrong. I went skiing at Santa Fe and found that I could barely walk uphill more than 100 feet.

2007...age 63...I checked in with Dr. Kraker who sent me over to the hospital for testing. Sure enough, I was operating with less than 40 percent of my expected lung capacity. He had suggestions about how I could manage my disease. But, of course, things got in the way and I put it off.

2008...age 64...I was standing in the grocery store gasping for breath...I had an infection, my lungs were full of liquid and I flat out couldn't breathe.

"to be continued.

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