Sick Lungs Don’t Show
Adapted from a 1998 EFFORTS brochure by Edna Fiore
I may not look sick, but … I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD.) What is COPD? It includes such illnesses as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and sometimes asthma. It is primarily characterized by extreme shortness of breath.
Living with COPD is very restrictive. It means having to avoid strong odors, smoke, flowers, perfumes, cleaning agents, paints, solvents, vehicle exhaust, shaving lotion, bath powders, incense. I also have to avoid temperature extremes or wind, crowds, molds and dusty places because they make me short of breath.
Physically. Living with COPD can mean having difficulty walking up stairs or inclines, not walking very far; being unable to rush or “be rushed;” tiring easily– especially if things last too long; being unable to tolerate tight clothing; and the inability to talk for any length of time.
Socially. Living with COPD can mean coughing in public which attracts attention and embarrasses me; having to use or wear devices or equipment or take medication which invites public comment (oxygen, cold weather masks, inhalers); being concerned (often excessively) about contact with cold or flu germs; and having my friends make short, pleasant, smokeless visits.
Emotionally. Living with COPD can mean crying easily, angering easily, becoming frustrated and impatient because I can’t do the things I used to do; feeling resentful when others tell me, “You don’t look sick.” COPD can cause me to be panicky and tense, and to become dependent and demanding because it’s frightening when I can’t breathe.
COPD affects my family. By having to adapt to my physical, emotional, social and environmental needs and limitations, often having to leave social functions earlier than they wish because of me or sometimes never getting there and by having to check out all of the details in advance, getting places early and all the while having to remain calm and reassuring at all times on my account.
I may not look sick but – Sick Lungs Don’t Show!