Spreading sunshine to others is how I stay positive with COPD

A columnist offers kindness and support to others who are struggling

Caroline Gainer avatar

by Caroline Gainer |

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When living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it can be hard to keep a sunny disposition. When you have trouble breathing, it’s hard to feel positive. One of the best ways I compensate is to spread some sunshine to others.

Beyond my COPD issues, the past two months have been particularly difficult for me. March 1 was my mother’s birthday; she died when I was 13. My son was born with a heart murmur on March 25 and died on May 25, 1963. My birthday is March 30. On April 11, 2002, my husband died from lung cancer.

I struggle each year to keep my spirits up during this period. This year I needed an extra boost, so I spent a considerable amount of time reading Psychology Today, trying to discover how to keep a positive mindset. I think I’ve come up with an amazing solution.

I have a drawer full of cards I’ve received from various organizations asking me to donate. Some are occasion-specific, with messages like “Happy birthday” or “Get well soon,” but most are little more than pretty notecards. I came up with the idea of sending these to some friends to say hi and that I hope they’re having a good day. I hoped the cards would bring smiles to their lips.

I received a phone call to thank me, and others sent cards back, saying that they very much enjoyed my note. This card-sending practice greatly benefited my emotional state.

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In the second week, I started sending notecards to strangers. One card went to a neighbor’s friend, as the neighbor had told her what I was doing. I asked my neighbor if receiving my note scared or offended her friend, but she said it didn’t. This news has given me the courage to continue sending a card to at least one stranger a week. I aim to send five cards every week — maybe more.

My new practice has helped me to resolve two issues: 1) too many cards and 2) a solemn mood.

Other mood builders

I went back and read a column I wrote last July about keeping a positive attitude. I realized I’d been skimping on my practice of sending daily words of encouragement to people on Inspire’s “Living with COPD” support community, which is sponsored by the American Lung Association.

I also hadn’t been answering as many questions on COPD360social, the COPD Foundation’s online community, or sending encouraging messages to those who are newly diagnosed and scared. I’ve gotten back into the habit of checking this platform at least twice a day.

Trying to help someone else is the best medicine I’ve found for the blues. I always try to be mindful of my mental and emotional health and stay positive so that I can face another day with a smile.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


David Sylvester avatar

David Sylvester

Hi Caroline......All of your columns are great---especially today's. A good reminder for me to reach out (even if I don't feel like it) and try to be a positive force wherever I go in the day!!
------your 360 pal
------Dave S (alias das23)😀

Caroline Gainer avatar

Caroline Gainer

Thank-you, Dave. I see you spreading sunshine on COPD360.

Paul Gregory avatar

Paul Gregory

Dear Caroline,
I'm joining your cause even though I don't have the courage to run two extreme disadvantages at present. I've 18%of lung functionality
and am about to discover that I will also have to wear a Catheter for my urine for the rest of my existence on this planet ! I fear this will be confirmed by my Urologist this coming Monday the 29th. Oh dear...I do admire your philosophy though.
I'm 79 this year and its a terrible struggle.

Caroline Gainer avatar

Caroline Gainer

I am so sorry that you may need to have a catheter. Though my plan does not make the physical situation better, it does make it eassier to deal with.

Karen Hunt avatar

Karen Hunt

Your column has inspired me to go back to making cards. I’m going to open my big box of scrap papers to collage cards again to send to my people. Creativity has been dormant to long!

Kitty Hays avatar

Kitty Hays

I never heard you speak on the Zehphy Valve, may I ask why? Have you heard of it?


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