I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – and it’s a terminal illness.
COPD is a serious, progressive and disabling condition that limits airflow in the lungs.
Those with copd are prone to severe episodes of shortness of breath, with fits of coughing; and excessive mucous production.
In 2012, copd was the 5th leading cause of death in Australia. The 4th in the U.S.
COPD causes changes in your lungs and airways.
– air sacs and airways lose their ability to stretch
– the walls of the air sacs are destroyed
– the walls of the airways become thickened and inflamed
– airways become clogged with mucus
These changes involves destruction of the lung tissue, specifically the alveoli, which reduces the flow of air in and out of the lungs which deprives the body of much-needed oxygen.
I have stage 2.
There are 4 ‘stages’.
There is no cure for copd – and while treatment and lifestyle changes can slow the progression of the disease so that you can feel better and stay more active – the fact is that over time, everyday tasks become more and more difficult.
There are good days, and not so good days.
It’s not something I try to dwell on – but it is an unignorable part of my life, and makes its presence known to me, each and every day…
It’s also effected not just by what I’m doing physically, but by temperature, humidity, stress/anxiety levels, air quality etc.
Sometimes it just plain makes me scared and/or angry.
Other times, I manage to put on my big-girl panties and just get on with this business of Living!!
It’s becoming more difficult, as time marches on, to ‘hide’ it.
Subtle adjustments have had to be made to the way I go about my daily Life, so that it has minimal impact.
For example – I need to get up to get ready for work earlier.
For some weird reason, my early morning pre-work routine can often knock the stuffing out of me.
By the time I’m finally ready to head out the door, I’m often gasping like a goldfish-out-of-water, and it can take up to ten minutes to settle the breathing back down to a tolerable level.
If I don’t take that time, it always bites me in the ass – because my job is less than 5mins drive away, and once I get to work, I have a fairly lengthy walk to get to my office.
If I haven’t spent those ten minutes at home getting my breath back before I left for work, then by the time I make it through the door of my office and it slams shut behind me, I am hanging over the desk, gasping so badly, turning purple and am so ridiculously out of breath, that I’m near the pass-out point from lack of oxygen.
Not really a great way to start a day, I can assure you…
And on top of that – it’s fucking embarrassing!!
I also get exhausted very easily, which is incredibly annoying!
My Wife is great with taking my ‘difficulties’ into consideration.
She checks beforehand, for example, that there are elevators available when there are a lot of stairs, or finds different way around if there are steep walks, or will initiate rest-breaks just by stopping and looking at the scenery, is she notices I’m flagging a bit more than usual.
She carries our groceries upstairs when we get home if she’s there, and she tries to get me to sleep more when exhaustion sets in.
Little things like that…but for me, they’re the big things…
Not a lot of people know I have copd, and that’s been my decision.
I’ve learnt from some that do know, that you’re often treated a little bit different when people know you’re terminal.
And not different in a good way – like my Love does.
They look at you differently.
They feel – it seems – like they somehow have been given an option to give their opinion on your treatment or lifestyle choices.
They ask how you are differently – like you’re maybe about to take your very last gasp right there in front of them, and drop down dead at their feet.
We’re all dying folks!
It’s the one thing in Life that is guaranteed.
And we don’t know when or how it’s going to happen, for the most part.
A bus might be round the very next corner you turn, and it may well be destined for you – or me – we just don’t know…
Am I scared of dying?
Yes and no…
The process itself doesn’t scare me.
And I know that all my children and grandchildren have fabulous lives waiting ahead of them – they’ll all be ok, and time will heal…
2 things do scare me though…
Having to go through the physical and emotional experience of suffocation.
I’d much rather get filled up with morphine if that was where the next step was headed, and just peacefully drift off, as my system shuts down from OD-ing.
The other thing is – being without my Love.
I feel like 100 years still wouldn’t be sufficient time with her, and I’m not ready to cut our time short – but like I said before – none of us know who’s gonna go first, or when, so just I have to keep trying to remind myself of that.
It does give you the “Life is Short” perspective though, and I find myself getting really pissed off with ‘time wasting’…
Not the kind of time-wasting where you spend Sunday on the couch watching movies, drinking hot tea, and eating chips and chocolate – but the kind where you sweep things under the carpet to deal with ‘later’, or you put things off that you really want to do – until ‘later’.
I’m a weird girl, I’m told…
I dont yearn for Disneyland, or a gondola ride through Venice, or hot buttery croissants near the Champs Élysées in Paris, or a six star hotel, or a pamper day at a Spa.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure all those things would be very nice, and I’d ‘adapt’ if I needed to (!!) – but they aren’t the things I yearn for…
I want to spend half an hour just kissing.
I want to make love slowly and luxuriously and often – just disappearing into oneness with my beautiful Wife.
I want to grow my own veges, on a block of dirt that we’ve started from scratch.
I want to live in one room, while building a 3 room home, and showering from a bucket.
I want to have to empty a stinky portaloo – cos my Love would spew her heart out, if she had to do it!
I want to feel the sun, wind and rain on my back, as I dig in the garden, getting dirt wedged under my nails!
I want to lie wrapped in my Loves arms, with my head nestled into her chest, just listening to her heartbeat, as we both doze; with a warm fat cat asleep near our feet.
I want to walk along the beach at dusk, holding her hand.
But what I most want, is to Live!
Not just exist…