COPD is a totally underfunded illness. It is not a sexy disease like cancer. There is no cure for COPD and we have no chance of remission. Those of us that have COPD will die with COPD. Finding those Funding Dollars for COPD is no easy feat because we feel such guilt that it makes it so hard for us to find our voices. Doctors pat us on the shoulder and tell us that we won’t die from COPD. It is of little comfort because we will die from one of the co-morbidities associated with COPD and our death will not be a pretty one.
Comorbidities: The Side Effects
Side affects or co-morbidities associated with COPD include weakening of heart muscle from the stress of continually having little or no lung function. Over time these heart muscles become stretched and fatigued from constant high pressures. Our heart becomes unable to pump blood properly and soon it affects extremities of the legs and ankles robbing vital organs of oxygen. When edema or swelling starts be assured it is caused by heart damage. Retention of fluid causes our breathing to become stressed and laboured because we are drowning in our own fluid.
Shortness of Breath
As COPD rears it ugly head we begin with shortness of breath. Our lungs naturally loose elasticity as we age, so loosing some lung function is normal but COPD robs us of about 50 to 60 % function much earlier in life. Once this function has been lost it can not and will not be repaired. We will not get better,with this progressive disease, we will only get worse. Finding your voice is hard. So when people ask us how we feel and we reply, “I am fine” they assume that it is because we are cured. We will never be cured. COPD will affect every part of our life for as long as we live.The four diseases associated with COPD are emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma and some forms of bronchitis.
Ontario Lung Association uses the phrase that “when you can’t breathe nothing else matters.” This is so true, because when you can’t breathe it is hard to think about anything else. Almost every action and task that we do if effected by shortness of breath.
Causes of COPD
Mainly caused by smoking, COPD can also be caused by pollution, poor management of asthma and genetics. Only 30% of those that smoke will get COPD.
This important fact needs to be kept in mind because those of us who have a diagnosis of COPD from smoking will cry foul at getting caught for our sins. It makes finding funding harder because we find it hard to use our voices. Why some of us got COPD and others, sitting along side of us, didn’t is a mystery. Keep in mind that smoking was an encouraged habit back in the day. Everyone smoked at one time and we were the majority. We had the privilege of smoking everywhere, even in the doctors offices and labour and delivery rooms.
Looking forward into our future, the WHO is predicting an increase in diagnosis of COPD due to high pollution in major cities along with our young teens that have discovered vaping and thinking it is much safer than smoking but it is not.
The Missing Millions
It is estimated that more than a million people in Canada alone have COPD but have not been tested for it.They miss the point on how serious this disease can be, unaware that not being treated can lead to an early death. The Ontario government just recently slashed funding for this disease and are now out on a limb with no supports of funding for awareness and research and development.
More than 50% of those that have COPD had no idea that this disease existed and they continued to ignore the symptoms leading to a greater impact on their heart. Very few of these people will actually get tested.
WE are now asking for funding dollars to have this test available in you GP’s office.
The test for COPD. An easy painless test that takes about 10 minute to complete.
Breathing out as fast as you can for 1 Second = Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1)
Breathing out for as long as you can = Forced Vital Capacity (FVC)
FEV1 / FVC = % of air you can breathe compared to others.
Awareness of COPD
We have held our tongues for too long and the time is now to start speaking out about COPD and the effects on our lives and livelihoods.
Most of us had our careers cut short because of lack of accommodations and little empathy from employers and co-workers. While our earnings have been slashed, we must fend for ourselves with no pensions and high medical costs. Without funding or research dollars going to COPD our cure will never be found.
It is time for our voices to be heard. The funding dollars come from government and big business. Let your voices be heard. Stop the shame of COPD and start the conversation.
Lets get moving on our cure.