When I was first diagnosed with COPD at age 57. I was really shocked. I was not a regular cigarette smoker. I was very athletic and mostly healthy. Even my lung cancer diagnosis just four months earlier didn’t prepare me.
When I had one-half of my lung removed to get rid of the cancer, I thought I was cured. Sure, I had lost some breathing capacity but I didn’t need any medicine or extra therapy. But COPD is chronic and progressive. It never gets better and it never goes away. I couldn’t cut it out like a tumor. And I would need medicine for the rest of my life.
When I got over the initial shock of my diagnosis, I had to figure out how to keep up my active lifestyle and run my real estate business while living with this condition. After spending several months trying to just plow through each day as though I had two healthy lungs, I realized I needed to change. I was getting very depressed and frustrated.
I learned that to have an active, fulfilling day I have to do two things. First, remain positive. Second, take the time and focus; don’t rush through it.
When I woke up this morning, I felt like I often do. My chest was very tight and I labored to breath just walking up and down the stairs at my house. My back and neck muscles are sore from a night of hard breathing because the air is humid. I felt lousy, which is quite typical. But, I also planned to have a fun and productive day. It would just take me a little longer to get there. So, I begin my routine.
First, I lie on the floor on top of my foam roller to massage my back, shoulders, neck and chest. This gives me instant relief. I then do some simple stretches or yoga poses.
Next, I take a sauna or a hot epsom salt bath. I stretch and relax my lungs by breathing four slow counts in and eight slow counts out for about 15 minutes. Then I take a whirlpool to further relax my tight lungs and muscles while breathing mindfully and staying calm.
Within a few hours I feel relaxed, motivated, and able to work for several hours. I know I will also have time for something fun later, like a bike ride or going to the climbing gym.
Perhaps all this focus on my morning routine sounds like I am pampering myself instead of just getting to work. But if I don’t do this, I will suffer all day. I’m often asked how I stay so positive. I know it is because I commit first to caring for myself. When I do, the rest of my life just falls into place. Sometimes, I can even forget I have COPD.