Sarah's Story: Dealing With the Emotions From COPD
More good days. It's possible to have them, even with COPD, says Sarah, who found out 3 years ago that she had the disease.
COPD sneaked up on Sarah. She began coughing more often, and the coughing lasted longer. Every day it got a little bit harder to breathe. One day she found she couldn't walk up the basement stairs without having to stop and catch her breath. And then she began coughing and couldn't stop.
"It was scary," she says. "I'd try to take a breath, but I'd cough instead. I was coughing up all this liquid—it felt like I was drowning. I just sat on the step and hung onto that railing until it stopped. It seemed like a really long time."
After that, Sarah knew she had to quit smoking.
"My husband had been telling me for years to quit, but I just couldn't," says Sarah, 67. "But when my doctor told me I had COPD, I knew I really had to do it. My mom had COPD but never quit smoking, and her last years were really hard."
It took a year, a few tries, the help of a quit-smoking group at a local hospital, and medicines before Sarah was able to quit for good. But it turns out that, for Sarah, quitting smoking isn't the toughest part about having COPD.
"Not being the person I used to be—it makes me really sad sometimes," Sarah says. "When I was in my 20s and 30s, I worked full-time and chased four kids around the house. Some days now I can't even get dressed without taking a break. And I need to take this oxygen tank with me every time I leave the house."
Feeling depressed and angry makes it hard to make it through the day, Sarah says. But going to a COPD support group every week at her local hospital helps a lot.
"I fit in there. I'm not the only one with a hose up my nose," she says. "I can talk about how mad I am that I have this disease. And it helps me to hear how other people are dealing with it."
The group helps Sarah stay on track with her pulmonary rehab program, medicines, and diet. She and a friend walk in the mall every morning. Sarah says that those walks make her feel strong. These days she's breathing a little easier too.
"Every time I have a good day, it makes me want to keep trying. There are lots of days I don't want to even get up," she says. "But then I think about taking my walk or seeing my friends, and I want to get out there. COPD may slow me down, but it isn't going to stop me."
This story is based on information gathered from many people facing this health issue.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Ken Y. Yoneda MD - Pulmonology