About 12 years ago, my doctor sent me to a heart specialist who diagnosed me with COPD – a chronic condition of the lungs, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. I had a few minor issues that did not seem to amount to too much at the time, but I never imagined I’d end up being diagnosed with a serious lung condition. It was very scary.
How did you respond to being diagnosed?
I was smoking at the time, so one of the first things I did was quit. Within days, I felt so much better. Back then we smoked everywhere. I remember smoking in the hospital when my last baby was born. That was in the mid-seventies.
Another thing I did when I was diagnosed was join the Better Breathers’ Program and connected with people in similar circumstances. And when my specialist referred me to the Langley Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program...well, joining that program was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Program Leader Connie Goeres has been instrumental in helping me develop the tools I need, as well as helping me stick to the plan we developed to better optimize my health.
What worked for you?
Through the pulmonary rehab program, I’m constantly learning more impactful ways to exercise and more healthy ways of eating. I’m learning the latest information about my lung condition and how to make lifestyle changes that improve the quality of my life. The miraculous thing is that over the past twelve years, my doctors have been monitoring my lungs. The results show I’ve maintained my level of lung function since my diagnosis. I did what Connie and my pulmonary specialist told me to do, and it’s working!
What else worked for you?
To be honest, it wasn’t all just what the medical community asked of me. My wonderfully supportive husband, four grown children, and five young grandchildren have all been a huge factor in helping me maintain my health. I would like to be there for all five of my grandchildren’s graduations.
I’ve also developed some amazing friendships in both the Better Breathers’ Program and through the Langley Rehabilitation Program. My friends help me when something is or isn’t working or when life just happens and I need people around me who truly understand and help me get back on track. I know that ultimately I’m the only one who can improve my health, but it sure helps to have loving, caring people around who help make the tough days brighter.
How has your everyday life been affected?
Twelve years ago I could run. I don’t run anymore – and not solely because of my lung condition. I have had two hip replacements, and I’m happy to say both hips are generally quite fine right now. I have a Fitbit, and I make sure to walk 10,000 steps a day.
Another way my life is being affected is that I'm getting older and am starting to slow down. I can sit in front of the TV and be entertained, but doing that day in and day out will get me absolutely nowhere.
Instead, I try to set myself up for success. Before I go to bed at night, I write down three things I either need to do or want to do. And when I accomplish them, I physically check them off.
Take my list for today for example:
- Go grocery shopping.
- Clean the bathroom.
- Polish the brass hardware on kitchen cupboards.
I was so happy to check off items 1 and 2. Item 3 got half a check as I managed to get the upper cupboards done and will finish the bottom half tomorrow – which will be the first item on tomorrow’s list. I find the feeling of accomplishment very motivating. Depression is a common side effect of chronic disease. Feeling accomplished and motivated helps me keep it at bay.
What do you do for fun?
My grandson Sean and I love baking up delicious surprises. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to stand in the kitchen with him and take the deepest breath I possibly can as we pull fresh pie out of the oven. I love making beautiful memories like this with my grandchildren. I’m also a member of the Red Hatters! And that’s all about having fun!
How do you see your future?
Someone once told me that when you receive a life threatening diagnosis, it is like being ushered immediately into God’s Waiting Room. I’ve worked hard over the past 12 years and will continue to do so in hopes that I don’t get called up any time soon. The future looks bright.