Diana Joneson was diagnosed with COPD in the late 90’s. Although her COPD impacts her life, she does her best to manage it through dancing, support groups, and lots of exercise! We recently spoke with Diana about living with COPD, and what her advice is to others.
How did you first find out you had COPD?
In the early 1990’s I was getting cortisone injections for my back pain. Unfortunately, due to a physician error, I experienced a collapsed lung. I had to have a chest tube inserted, and I’ve been on puffers ever since. A couple years later, in the late 1990’s, I was given a breathing test and received my official diagnosis of COPD.
How has COPD impacted your life?
I try not to let it impact my life, but it does. I can no longer run or hike. Even playing with my grandchildren for extended periods of time is really hard for me. I’ve also had both depression and anxiety from the frustration that comes with living with COPD.
That sounds really frustrating. Do you have strategies to help manage your COPD?
I regularly use the puffers my doctor prescribed. But the most important thing I do is exercise! I exercise four times a week for at least half an hour each time, and attend pulmonary rehab twice a week. Our pulmonary rehab program starts with half an hour of walking, then half an hour of exercise, followed by an hour of education on topics including medications, action plans, and managing stress and anxiety.
I also dance once a week at an extended care facility. We dance with residents in wheelchairs, walkers, and those who are still mobile. We even created a wheelchair dance! My husband and I also dance at our senior’s centre. Since I’ve started exercising on a regular basis, I rarely have flare-ups that force me to use my Ventolin (a fast-acting bronchodilator).
Is there anything besides medication and exercise that you find helpful?
I have an action plan that I created with my doctor for when I have a flare-up. I use pursed lip breathing when I start to feel shortness of breath. I’m also learning to meditate, which I love! And I draw zentangles, which are similar to mandalas, which I find very calming.
Any advice for other people living with COPD?
Keep moving! The benefits of exercise are unbelievable. Start slow and pace yourself. It can take time to build up your endurance and it’s important to know your limits. I’d also recommend joining a pulmonary rehab program and a support group like Better Breathers. It’s great to hear stories from other members and share tips and ideas about self-management. I would really like to see more people join so there can be more discussion and stories – and perhaps some more helpful hints!
Any last words?
Keep moving and think positive – it works!
You can join Diana and other people living with COPD and their caregivers by searching Better Breathers: Facing COPD on Facebook or contacting BC Lung Association at 604-731-5864.