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National COPD Awareness Month 2021

A decorative image with an orange background to represent National COPD Awareness Month 2021 with designs of lungs, an inhaler, medicine containers, a person coughing, and a doctor with an x-ray of lungs in their hand.

November is a month where numerous month-long observances fall. This includes National COPD Awareness Month 2021. This stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and it is a condition where there’s currently no cure for it. The symptoms are only manageable and treatable, but sadly not curable at this time.

So, what is COPD Awareness Month? First, let’s talk about what this means. According to the Mayo Clinic website, COPD is an overarching term that includes the following:

Swelling in the lower extremities

Wheezing

Feeling short of breath, more so with exertion.

Recurring respiratory infections

Coughing (productive, meaning phlegm in green, yellow, clear, or white)

Lack of energy

Chest tightness

Weight loss (when you weren’t trying to lose weight) in the more advanced stages.

COPD includes stages as part of the condition. In the early stages, there may be few, if any symptoms, and can even be diagnosed as something else like asthma or bronchitis as standalone diagnoses. As the disease progresses, more of these symptoms can show up in increasing severity.

This disease can also have flare-ups, which can be caused by any number of things. In other words, this means the symptoms get worse than they usually are. Sometimes these can last for days,

What causes COPD? In industrialized societies, the main contributor to COPD is smoking, and even secondhand smoke. A history of asthma can also play a role in this. Other causes include workplace hazards, and in developing countries, this can also extend to homes with inadequate ventilation for cooking and heating fuel usage.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s also a genetic aspect to developing this currently-incurable illness.

This is an illness that hits very close to home for me. While I don’t have it (at least for now, as far as I know), I am at risk for acquiring it down the road due to my mom having it.

Her diagnosis of COPD was roughly 10 years ago, give or take. Since then, it’s been a long, difficult road of COPD crises right and left, ER visits (or A&E visits for you readers overseas), hospital stays, medicine cocktails galore, and a diagnosis of lung cancer thrown in.

The lung cancer was caught way early. Like, Stage 1 early. This is the stage where it’s caught by happenstance, and this was a happy accident for sure. The doctors caught it before it spread, and she had been in remission for this ever since.

This was the year she hit the four-year survival rate. However, due to her worsening COPD, she made the decision to enter hospice care after her second hospital stay earlier this year.

It is a very sad thing to admit, much less talk about, but I believe her smoking addiction accelerated her illness. She had reached a point where she wanted to quit, but couldn’t. Every time she talked about it, I was all in, and more than happy to help.

But that never happened. From what I’ve read, this shyt’s designed to be as addictive as humanly possible, and for what? To fatten up the bank accounts of some asswipe tobacco company bigwig.

Smoking (and other forms of nicotine products like the V-word that involves sucking on devices that look like flash drives) is the leading cause of COPD, as well as the conditions that contribute to it.

As a kid, I made the decision that I would never take up smoking, no matter what. It’s stayed that way, and it always will. However, I know a lot of people I went to school with who took up smoking for whatever reason. Maybe among you readers, there’s one of you that has.

I’m not gonna shame you or judge you, or shake my virtual finger at you. God knows you probably get enough of that in the 3-D world as it is.

I wanna tell you this: you can quit. Are you still alive? Are you still breathing? Then that means it’s still not too late for you. I don’t care how old you are, or how many times you’ve tried before. Your life is worth it, and your quality of life will be better, regardless of your circumstances.

I recently happened upon this blog after they found my post on Instagram commemorating my mom. While my mom’s passing was very sudden and unexpected, I need to make it clear that a COPD diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it used to be. The symptoms are manageable and treatable, like what this blog focuses on. The blogger mentions that they did indeed have a history of smoking, but that they found a way to quit.

I can say for sure that their quality of life is better than it otherwise would’ve been, and it is my sincerest hope that they live for a long time going forward. I hope that for everyone with this diagnosis, too.

Is there a cure for COPD? Unfortunately there isn’t, short of a lung transplant. That’s something that a lot of people may not have the means to pursue, or even be healthy enough to undergo if their condition has progressed in its’ severity. My mom was one of them.

However, I found this post outlining a clinical trial from a few years back that mentions some advancements toward a cure.

In the meantime, the COPD Foundation provides the next best thing: raising awareness, and funding for research. Modern medicine ended up being too little, too late to save my mom. I hope that this changes for those currently living with a COPD diagnosis, and changes soon.

That being said, over to you, readers. Is COPD something that hits close to home for you or someone close to you? If you feel ok talking about it, or if you don’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways either way.

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