“When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.” — American Lung Association
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen, that I have a hard time breathing, especially when my annual bout with bronchitis arrived. Most ignored me or looked like they wished I would shut up, so I did. I decided they probably knew better than me. Then last fall a doctor gave me a reality check. After a night-long breathing test and a pulmonary function test, she told me I have COPD with a possibility of worse. X-rays and cat scans followed.
All I know is I have a terrible time breathing here at 7,000 feet. I guess I had to move here to know for sure…
Do you have any idea how demoralizing this is? To be told at age 61 that your ability to breath is not good, and will never get better. I’ve always done whatever I wanted to, but that is over. I’ve climbed fourteeners! It wasn’t ever easy, but I’ve done it!
So today I went to the American Lung Association page and found: “Taking Her Breath Away: The Rise of COPD in Women” Here’s a few fun facts about COPD:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that slowly robs its sufferers of the ability to draw life-sustaining breath. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer, and is not decreasing nearly as quickly as the other two
Did you know that more than 7 million women in the U.S. live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema? Millions more have the disease, but are undiagnosed, possibly because female COPD patients are commonly misdiagnosed with asthma.
In fact, the number of deaths among women from COPD has increased four-fold over the past three decades, and since 2000 more American women than men have died of the disease. Additionally, research shows women diagnosed with COPD experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and report lower quality of life.
The greatest difficulty for me, besides accepting this miserable diagnosis, is how discouraging exercising is. If walking around town is challenging, what then?
My favorite part of the above-mentioned document about COPD, is the last paragraph where the Lung Association encourages people like me “to speak out about the toll COPD is taking in [our] lives…learn more about how it affects us; advocate for our own best care, and become a voice for other women with COPD in my community.”
“The American Lung Association’s 2017 “State of the Air” report finds that 4 in 10 Americans live in counties with unhealthful levels of air pollution, putting them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks cardiovascular damage and developmental and reproductive harm.”
This past week I spent some time with my father, Jack Carter, a botanist and naturalist. He was a professor of biology at numerous universities and colleges, and is now a professor emeritus at Colorado College. He chose, much like Mike and I, to leave the city behind as he retired, and lived in rural New Mexico until recently. I feel like my father understands the importance of developing special connections with nature, so I enjoy discussing with him how my own feelings have changed in the past few years just by moving away from the many distractions of city life.
I enjoyed my time up north in the city, because spring has already arrived there. Just outside my parents’ door is a marvelous Crab Apple Tree in full bloom. What a beauty! The cities have so many introduced trees and plants that make it more colorful in the spring. I experienced a small amount of spring-envy…
On the other hand, as I walked around the lovely grounds near their home, all I could hear was traffic in the distance. This is a sound I am completely familiar with. Every city I have ever lived in has this distant roar of people in cars going somewhere, or at least trying to, with an occasional siren thrown in.
When I spoke with my Dad about this, he observed that everything in cities is about getting in your car to go somewhere. The distractions are constant and everywhere. They don’t allow us to become fully aware of our surroundings or even the people we meet. I sat outside, listened and understood why I haven’t connected well with nature for most of my life. There was just too much else going on.
Then I started explaining to my Dad how much I finally appreciate nature. I love the morning silence, something I have heard so rarely in my life. I love the sound of birds as they get louder, welcoming another bountiful spring. I feel so in touch with each new change in the trees, the plants, the birds, and the weather. It is like a new awakening in my own soul.
Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein
My Dad understands these things. These are the reasons he chose to live outside cities until his health required moving closer to his doctors. There is something so reassuring about how the cycle of life and death continues regardless of anything we do to change it. This seems like cause for celebration for me, and I celebrate it every morning as the sun comes up.
I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado. After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado
Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books! Cheers, Laura Lee (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)
The world is full of rules… Be the exception!
I just celebrated my 62nd birthday. The gift I gave myself this year was a whole day without judging myself or my actions. I found this to be so much easier said than done: So many rules, so little time!
With every decision I made yesterday, I found someone in my brain there to question it. Should I do this or that? In each case I chose exactly what I wanted and ignored the “shoulds.” In this way I became even more conscious of all the rules in my own head. Wow, who knew what a negative committee I had been dealing with my whole life!
Then last night I started thinking about the many well-meaning (but annoying!) friends (and one ex-husband…) who were constantly offering me advice and instruction in how to live my life better.
DO THEY REALLY THINK I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TOXIC ADVICE FROM THE NEGATIVE COMMITTEE IN MY HEAD YET? SURE, POUR IT ON!
A number of years ago, I was visiting my parents down in Silver City when I saw this dish at an art gallery. I had to buy it, and then displayed it prominently in my living room. Did it work? No. By age 60 I began marking those friends off my list when they turned out to be duds.
Do you really think I haven’t lost weight because you haven’t arrived yet to share your latest tip on taking more walks or eating less? Gee, it might be my fractured ribs, two head injuries, COPD and other lung problems that are making walking at 7,000 feet a bit more challenging for me…
Whatever else I might be, I am super smart when it comes to solving my own problems, and I already have plenty of rules in my head that I’m slowly paring down for reasons mentioned above…
Thanks for trying, but I think I may know myself a tad bit better than you, since I just met you!
“No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night.” (pg. 34 of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)
I just finished reading this fine book, the last written words of a top neurosurgeon who died in his mid-thirties of lung cancer in March of 2015. With a recent scary cat scan of my own lungs in January, you may wonder why I chose to read this book now. I wasn’t sure myself until I read it.
First of all, Kalanithi is obviously a deep thinker, always searching for the meaning in life. In fact as I read I realized he had the opposite reaction than most of us when confronted with such a daunting diagnosis. Most become more emotional, he seemed to become more analytical. This was not my response to my own recent confrontation with death. My response was along the lines of: “Am I proud of my life?”
One aspect of Kalnithi’s story rang very true to me, the way my perception of time has changed so much since we left the city behind with all its traffic and deadlines.
“Everyone succumbs to finitude…Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.” (pg. 198)
We are never so wise as when we live in the moment.
I am boundlessly grateful to finally understand the pleasure of living in the present.
Since we finally had a sunny day yesterday, we decided to take a drive out west of La Veta. We took off west on Francisco street on the county roads and soon started seeing wild turkey everywhere…
and amazing rock formations too!
There were also abandoned cabins.