"I've been smoking ever since I was a teenager. That's 40-something years ago. I never really thought about what could happen to this old body if I kept lighting up. I just knew that I loved to smoke.
"Then I started to notice that it was getting harder and harder to do simple things like walk to my mailbox. One time my chest was so heavy that I lay down on the sidewalk until I could catch my breath. The neighbors must have thought I'd been run over. I kind of felt like I had been. I don't ever want to feel like that again. Then there was the coughing. I could barely get through a conversation without coughing.
"Finally I went to the doctor, and he told me that I had COPD. He said I really had to quit smoking.
"I wasn't sure I could. To be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to, and that's what I told him. He said my breathing would get a whole lot harder if I didn't quit, and that one day, I might have to be on oxygen and be laid up in bed. That scared me enough that I decided to give quitting a try.
"I tried to quit cold turkey, but after just a few days I could tell that it wasn't going to work. I knew it would be hard, because my best friend smokes, and we spend a lot of time together. He wasn't ready to quit, so seeing him light up made it really hard for me to say 'no.'
"I realized that I needed to try something else. So I tried the patch, and that made a big difference. It took almost 5 months, but I was finally able to quit, and I felt like it was for good. I can feel a difference in my breathing. And I feel hopeful that quitting will give me a few more years on my feet.
"My son has also been a huge help. He quit smoking almost 10 years ago. When I want a cigarette, I will sometimes give him a call. He helps me remember why I quit in the first place. He reminds me that I never want to feel 'run over' again. This time I plan to stay on my feet."
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with this condition.
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine