I have Emphysema
The main reason I quit smoking was that I have been diagnosed with Stage II Bullous Emphysema. Lots of people like to call it COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It does sound nicer and it is a term that includes many different diseases or conditions. The two main forms of COPD is emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but it is a blanket term that covers any disease that makes it difficult to breath. Therefore, I say I have Emphysema and smoking was a definite factor in that, but not the only factor for me. However, not every smoker gets it and not every non-smoker is immune. there are many different factors and ways to contract the disease.
Besides smoking like a fool, I also have a genetic problem that causes me to develop bubbles in between my lung and the lung lining…when those bubbles pop my lung collapses. My left lung collapsed five times before they came up with a way to take go in and cauterize those bubbles. I am happy to say I have not had a collapse in a while. The unfortunate thing is when the lung collapses it creates scars inside the lung, which is obstructive and reduces lung capacity. My left lung is fairly scarred. This was not caused by smoking but certainly did not help. According to the Pulmonologist I see, my right lung has been taking the brunt of breathing and ergo, most of the chemicals from smoking. That is way I got the Emphysema so young. That does not mean if I had two good lungs I would not have gotten the Emphysema, I would have. I would have just gotten it later in life.
The Emphysema, despite popular belief does not make it hard to breath in. It makes it hard to breath out. When one does not exhale all the breath you took in , you get little pockets of air trapped, usually in the upper lobes. The sufferer feels like there is a weight sitting on the chest. You may have seen the commercial where the man has an elephant sitting on his chest. It feels like that. When you can finally exhale all the breath (thank you modern medicine) it leaves scars behind, which reduces lung capacity. It is a progressive disease. There are no real studies about life expectancy, but the general consensus is that 60% to 70% of people with Stage II or Moderate Emphysema are alive after four years.
I was told not long ago that I was making myself sick with my attitude. I wish. I wish I could get some positive training and, boom ,I am cured. My disease is not curable and it is fatal. I will admit that I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that. No one wants to be told that one has a fatal disease that will greatly affect their lifestyle. That the shortness of breath and the cold I could not shake was more than just a bad virus. Who the hell wants that? I am starting to get a little more accepting, but being someone who thinks that I can fix anything, knowing I can’t fix this is hard for me to accept.
I can not fix it. I can however make it better. Not great but better. I quit smoking, which greatly slows the progression. I have started to exercise. Not much. Honestly, I can’t. I exercise until I am breathing hard. Sometimes that is no more than 5 minutes, sometimes I can go for hour. Just depends on the day. I am working on changing my diet. I am making better choices on what I eat and eating healthier. I am trying hard to change when I eat. The whole food every four hours. I do not like getting fat. I gained 10 pounds not smoking and for some reason am convinced eating every four hours will do that. Probably because I can not always be active. I do what I can,even though there is no way of knowing if anything I do will extend my life expectancy. I do know it makes it easier to breath and do more stuff, so I will continue.
What can those who care do? Will the biggest thing you can do is when you have a cold or feeling ill, please cough into your elbows and wash your hands. Seems silly, but I can not fight it off. I recently caught a “cold” I am on the couch with a ton of meds to fight the cold and be able to breath. So PLEAS be aware that your little bug can be deadly to folks like me.
You can also help me out by understanding when I have to sit a lot when we are out. Understanding that sometimes I have to break our lunch date because I am having a flare up. Understanding that I really do not mean to be mean. This is hard stuff to learn to live with and I am doing the best I can.My attitude will get better, but remember my entire life and everything I do has changed. Mostly, you can help by making me laugh, having fun, and treating me normal. I do love to laugh even if I sound like a breathless seal when I laugh.
DISCLAIMER: These posts are nothing more than chronicling my efforts to quit smoking. Anything I write is nothing more than my way of doing so and my feelings associated with those efforts. If you are inspired to quit smoking by anything, you read here, please see a doctor and follow their instructions. I, in no way, am suggesting or recommending anything as means of smoke cessation.