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Faces of COPD: Jan Cotton says, "The COPD Foundation Saved My Life."

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Jan Cotton had an exciting and adventurous 30-year career with Trans World Airlines until 15 years ago, when she was diagnosed with COPD, a chronic lung disease in which the airways become obstructed, making it harder to breathe. Now Jan serves as a leader in the community as a Governing Board Member of the COPD Patient-Powered Research Network as well as the COPD State Advocacy Captain of Illinois. While it has been an arduous road, Jan shares her journey of triumph below.

Jan was diagnosed with COPD in 2000 at the age of 51. Plagued with frequent chest colds for much of her life, Jan has no doubt that she lived with the disease long before she was diagnosed as growing up her mother “...was a smoker so the second-hand smoke contributed to my illness.” 

Jan Cotton for COPD awarenessOnce diagnosed, Jan was told she would have ten years to live by her doctor. She was devastated. Not willing to give up hope, Jan “sought great care from one of the top hospitals in the country. There I received the drugs I needed but not the information I needed – that all came later.”

Jan was still very active during the time around her diagnosis. Despite challenges in walking to classes on campus, she completed her Bachelor’s degree and began working on a Masters. Additionally, she was a substitute teacher in four school districts. “I still had not processed the diagnosis and did not know how to deal with it.” But eventually Jan would have to face the realities of the progression of her disease. As her lung function declined, she looked for ways to maintain her health. “I did attend pulmonary rehab and that helped tremendously.”

Jan Cotton for COPD awareness COPD also had a major impact on Jan’s emotional health, “I was so depressed and feeling sorry for myself.” Her emotional state prompted her to surf the internet to look for any help she could find. There she discovered the COPD Foundation and a number to its hotline. “The game changer for me was the phone call to the COPD Foundation’s C.O.P.D. Information Line," says Jan. She initially made the call in an attempt to find sympathy, but after the conversation she was offered a job. “The agent heard something in my voice that led her to believe that I was a fighter, and she was correct."

“The COPD Foundation saved my life. I learned more from them than any rehab or doctor. All information that was given out had been researched, tried and tested.” Equipped with education and a new support network of patients like her, Jan began to feel empowered.

“It has taken years to be where I am now,” says Jan. “It took time and effort to get all of my doctors on one accord. We all work together now. I don’t think that you ever completely get over depression and anxiety, but with proper exercise, meditation, faith and support groups, they are controllable.”

Most recently, Jan worked with UP Health and Wellness to record her experiences and advice in the Real Patients Speak video PSA in recognition of COPD Awareness Month: 

Jan describes the need for COPD awareness as urgent. “Every four minutes and individual dies of COPD. I call upon legislators to become Congressional COPD Caucus members. By doing so, they are showing their support for 30 million Americans suffering from COPD. I want them to know that their membership would bring greater awareness, funding and research to devastating national health crisis.”

Despite the hardships associated with COPD, Jan remains optimistic. She is inspired by the words of Hilary Cooper who famously wrote, “Life is not measure by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

We thank UP Health and Wellness for sharing their Real Patients Speak video featuring Jan Cotton. With over 20 years of experience in production, broadcast & digital media, UP Health and Wellness is dedicated to empowering consumers when it comes to their daily lives and overall health throughout North America. Their targeted programs are produced with therapeutic expertise by joining with an extensive network of key opinion leaders, care partners, community physicians, specialists, advocacy and support groups, professional societies, pharmacists, centers of excellence and at the heart of each program, key patient leaders sharing their personal stories and real-life experiences.

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