Life is full of choices and decisions -
but those of us with this disease called COPD have extra ones to
Do we make wrong decisions? NO!
We may go off in a direction different
than others take, but we are the only one's standing in our shoes at
As we learn to control this disease instead of letting it control us, we
do change directions.
The Fork in the Road!
In '92, I approached the first fork in the road with this disease -----
turning left would take me into denial, while taking the right fork
would have meant confronting this disease called COPD. My primary care
doctor wrote a note showing me the effect of COPD, but as a "dedicated"
smoker and a professional quitter, I ignored his advice.
That left fork was the comfortable one --- there, off on that wrong path
of denial, I did not have to accept my condition. But darn-it, I was
having trouble breathing at times, -- but in my state of denial, I could
rationalize it - "Oh well, it will go away after I quit smoking, so
nothing to worry about".
Several years later, after a winter of numerous bouts with pneumonia, I
came to another fork in the road ----- to the left was the continuation
of the destructive path called denial.
This time, however, I decided to take the right fork - - and let myself
see a pulmonologist. After all, he could probably fix everything. He was
good, so I thought. He quickly confirmed the diagnosis - as moderately
severe COPD. He then gave me a prescription for
Theophylline and a puffer (MDI) called Albuterol, which he told
me to use whenever I got short of breath ---- that was all there was
to do. Nothing more could be done. That was my total
education. Hmmm - no more forks in the road
Soon after that, I decided to try to learn more about this disease. I
started searching the Internet, and discovered there were people out
there just like me ---- scared, uneducated, withdrawing, and into
hiding. Early in this, I ran into some people online in a chat room, and
we became very close friends - Known as the three C's, you would find us
online helping each other cope early every morning. One of them was
already on O2, and used to tell some funny stories about being out in
the real world with her portable oxygen tanks ---- She also managed to
convey her attitude with it by calling it her "fashion statement". -----
From this contact with others came another fork in the road
The left fork was the path to nothing accept sitting out the rest of my
life, entering into the COPD spiral ---- getting short of breath, so you
do less ---- doing less allows your physical condition to
deteriorate which means less muscle efficiency with the limited oxygen
--- so you get short of breath faster, which makes you do less. On and on that downward spiral continues -
you then are able to do less and less --- on and on till you can't do
much of anything. You are almost completely immobile and maybe even bed
The right fork was to learn everything you can, getting rehab, or
developing your own exercise methods, getting involved and even helping
others as I had been helped. So I volunteered as a chat host in a COPD
support website. The more I learned, the more I realized that "we can
learn to control this disease instead of letting it control us".
And there was another fork in that long road too --- The left fork was
to stay with the pulmonologist who said there was nothing more that
could be done, or, I could take the right fork ----- FIRE HIM and find
another. With my newly acquired knowledge, I decided that he and I would
never make a team - and that a team effort was needed to master this. I
took that right fork.
Soon after, I was asked to take over the chat coordinators position in
that former support website, and that was soon followed with my being
asked to take over the duties of webmaster. And along came a problem for
me --- Some situations developed there that I could not condone.
Another fork in the road - the left fork was to stay, and in effect
sanction by silence those situations, or the right fork - to leave.
But to leave meant giving up helping others.
When I entered that next fork in the road, I discovered that there were
others at the same place as I. Seven of us took that right fork
together, forming closer friendships, but most importantly, starting a
new support website. Our combined knowledge and skills pooled to
establish a website totally devoted to a complete support network.
Oh yes, and by firing my former pulmonologist, I have found one of the
best ---- a Doctor who is truly dedicated to helping his patients lead
as good a quality of life as possible.
Ahh, and yes, and since those early days, I have had to make my own
"fashion statement" --- you will find me out and about with my portable
O2 --- shopping, going to restaurants, attending conferences, going to concerts and still
working. As one of my best friends likes to say - my Pulmonary
Function Test numbers are in
the basement, but I will not give in to that.
Life itself is full of forks in the road - but those of us with this disease
have extra ones to confront us ---- left forks lead us down that path to
early loss of quality of life --- right forks keep us active, productive
and with good self esteem.
We and our families deserve all that comes
with taking those right forks.
Get out, - stay active, - exercise, - have a positive attitude, - and
reach out to people who are in that scary, uncertain road behind you ----
help them find the right forks too.
(based on my