Look Ahead, Learn, and Live Well with COPD: You Can Do It!

Posted on December 06, 2021   |   

This post was authored by Jane Martin, BA, CRT.

We will soon start a new year. What does it hold for you, a person with COPD? Increased shortness of breath? Being less active? Having exacerbations (flare-ups) that send you to the hospital? Or, how about having stable COPD with no, or minor, flare-ups and more control over your breathing— and your life. Is this even possible? Yes. Yes, it is. And here are three steps to get started.

1. Look ahead

When I was working in pulmonary rehab, new patients came in on their first day, some of them feeling broken and defeated. Those who had COPD caused by cigarette smoking were often filled with shame and regret. They walked through our door that day expecting to be given a lecture, a lecture they’d heard too many times already - that they caused their COPD. But they didn’t hear that. Instead, I asked, "Can looking in that rear-view mirror help you see where you’re going? No, it can’t. So, here, today, it’s time to look ahead. What’s done is done. It’s in the past. No matter what your situation is, no matter how or why you have COPD, what’s most important is that you’re here, with us, at pulmonary rehab, today. And you can make a fresh start."

But even if you don’t ever go to pulmonary rehab, the message is the same. You can begin by reminding yourself that you’re still you. You may have COPD, but that does not change the person you are. You can accept yourself as a person with COPD who has every right to set goals—and see a future!

2. Learn

The good news about having COPD is that, whether you were diagnosed 10 years ago or just yesterday, you can learn. If you were just diagnosed with COPD, you can start today to learn what you need to know to make your breathing—and your life—better. If you’ve been diagnosed for a longer time, it’s good to know that there is always more for you to learn.

First and foremost - know that COPD is not a death sentence. Know, also, that you’re not alone! There is an amazing network of information and support in the COPD community. There are also great educational materials, books, and resources to help you learn what you need to know.

Keep in mind that as you go, you’ll have good days, and you’ll have bad days. But if you learn about taking care of your COPD and have support from peers with COPD, you can get through the bad days, and see your way forward to more of the good ones.

3. Do

Jo-Von Tucker, a lady with COPD and patient advocate said: “Our doctors can guide us, direct us, and measure our pulmonary function numbers. Our family members can encourage us to keep up with regular exercise, take our medicines, and get the nutrition we need. They can go along with us to doctor appointments. Our respiratory therapists can keep us on our toes regarding the use of breathing techniques and supplemental oxygen and equipment if it has been prescribed. Many people can be of help as we fight COPD, but they can't do it for us! They cannot exercise for us, they cannot take our medicines for us, and they certainly cannot breathe for us! That is something we have to do ourselves. And we can.” And Jo-Von did! After being diagnosed with COPD, she became a writer, speaker, author, and a fierce advocate for people with COPD.

So…my friends, we will soon turn our calendar page to a new year. What will you find for yourself in the coming new year – you, a person with COPD? Well, that’s up to you. Are you ready to do what you need to do to live life as fully as possible in spite of your COPD? If so, let’s start today with these three simple steps:

  1. Look ahead – Know that what’s past is past and accept yourself as you are.
  2. Learn – Learn from experts, and others like you, how to manage your COPD.
  3. Do – Be empowered to take control of your breathing—and your life.

You are not alone. COPD is not a death sentence. You can do this! The time is now.

Jane M. Martin is the author of Live Your Life with COPD – 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness, and Hope, second edition. Live Your Life with COPD - 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness, and Hope by Jane M. Martin, BA, CRT, published by Outskirts Press


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  • Very good tidbits of information Jane! So many times patients are carrying guilt around due to tobacco use and we have to try to get them to realize that they need to let that go and take control of COPD instead of it controlling them. When they can do that you can see them change for the better, less stress, less anger, and a better frame of mind!
    • So true, Stacey! Letting go of guilt can be a good start for former, and current, smokers to move on to managing their COPD and have hope for better days ahead.
  • great post very informative may i share please?

    • Thank you for asking, Enkay. You are most welcome to share the link to this blog post! If you have any other questions, just click on my name and let me know.

  • Great article, Jane. We should not allow COPD to take over our lives. We should live our lives happily. By following our doctors advice, using common sense, and maintaining a positive outlook, we can live our lives to the fullest! Stay informed! Keep on smiling! Be proactive! Let's look forward to a productive and wonderful 2022!!!
  • Great article Jean!!!! Thanks for all you do!!!!👍
  • Well I obviously need this as I can't imagine how Jo-Von does all that. I can't even enjoy the zoo anymore, between hauling "enough" tanks for the day, and the long walk to get inside where they rent the scooters. And now covid - even though I am vaccined and boostered up, I am scared to go almost anywhere. Not enjoying life anymore, I really feel like I'm waiting to die. 😥
    • Hello Nancylala, It sounds like the zoo has always been a favorite place of yours and I can see why it must be discouraging to not be able to go there. You're not alone in feeling isolated. Our friends on the COPD360 social activity feed might have some ideas on how you can get out safely. If you haven't done this already, I encourage you to scroll up to the blue box (COPD360social Menu), go to the activity feed, and share your thoughts. There are many warm, helpful, and creative friends in this community. I hope we can help you feel better!
  • After three years, I'm beginning to "catch on" to what COPD means for me. Understanding that it's my decision to manage the disease. Looking forward to many good years ahead.
    • That sounds great, Bob! Stay in touch and share your wisdom with our community!
  • Thank you for the message in this Jane. Although I was diagnosed 12 years I thought I was doing pretty well...and then last year was diagnosed with lung cancer and treated w/chemo and radiation. The cancer in my right lung is gone but I've lost volume. I'm going to go back and do the pulmonary rehab again. This is a good reminder that even though my SOB has gotten worse, I can help to stabilize it. Thank you again.

    • Hello bilbothejust, it's great to hear that your cancer is gone! Getting back to pulmonary rehab is a fantastic idea, and that will hopefully help with your recent increase in shortness of breath. Yes, you can work to stabilize your COPD. Here's to 2022 -- a better year for you!