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Life is full of choices and decisions - but those of us with this disease called COPD have extra ones to confront us.

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 that time.
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 ridden.

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 speakers notes)

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