A waiting game reminds me of being diagnosed with COPD

I'm still seeking answers to my stomach problems, but at least I'm not in denial

Caroline Gainer avatar

by Caroline Gainer |

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For two weeks, I’ve gone to at least two doctor appointments a week to learn what’s causing me stomach problems atop my chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but I still don’t have a definitive answer.

I’ve been having pain in the area of my hiatal hernia (in the diaphragm) as well as acid reflux, even though I’m taking 30 mg of Prevacid (lansoprazole) a day. COPD and acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), are considered comorbidities.

As I was about to become agitated about the wait, I reminded myself that I went through something similar when I was diagnosed with COPD in 2013. The difference this time, however, is that I’m doing exactly what my doctor says — which I didn’t do when told I had COPD.

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Before that diagnosis but with prominent symptoms, I was sent home from the hospital with an inhaler and appointments with a pulmonologist and cardiologist. I didn’t keep either appointment. I later became noticeably short of breath and went to an urgent care clinic. The doctor there had me sit with the pulse oximeter on my finger for several minutes to see if my oxygen saturation would get above 92%. It didn’t.

The doctor then wrote me a note to take to the hospital so I could be admitted without the usual waiting. Yet I didn’t go to the hospital. I became better at controlling my breathing and convinced myself I was OK.

My experience with denial

The behavior I’ve just described is called denial, and it’s one of the stages of grieving. People diagnosed with a chronic condition often go through these stages, and denial was the first part of my grief journey when I was diagnosed with COPD.

A few days after my visit to the urgent care clinic, I had a panic attack in a Kroger grocery parking lot. The humiliation of that experience snapped me out of denial, and I called for an appointment with the pulmonologist the next morning, when I found myself still noticeably short of breath.

The intake nurse at the pulmonologist’s office measured my oxygen saturation and declared that I qualified for supplemental oxygen. As she hooked me up to a stationary concentrator, a wave of relief passed over me as the wonderful oxygen-enriched air filled my lungs. I felt myself relaxing and believing, for the first time in a long time, that everything would be fine.

I was scheduled for a pulmonary function test and set up with a local oxygen provider. I was finally on my way to taking charge of my disease as I waited for the test results. Soon after, I was diagnosed with moderate to severe COPD with a low diffusion rate, which is the part of the test that measures the lungs’ ability to diffuse oxygen into the blood.

Waiting for test results and multiple doctor visits isn’t fun, but sometimes it’s necessary. Now that I’m dealing with a new health issue, I’m relying on past experiences to give me the courage to keep looking for answers. I’m finding acceptance more easy today because if I’m in denial, I cannot get the help I need.

If you’re in denial, as I was, I hope my insights will help you move forward to acceptance.

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.


Mag.Phillips42@gmail.com avatar

[email protected]

I enjoy info about Copd. Am end stage also.

David A Sylvester avatar

David A Sylvester

Thanks for your honesty Caroline. It helps us all👍

Monica Kaufmann avatar

Monica Kaufmann

Wow, you have a ton or courage! I admire your honesty and hope your GERD is only that.

Beth Wolcott avatar

Beth Wolcott

Hello, read your story, I guess I'm in denial about copd, however was never put through any testing except pulmonologist had me walk around the clinic and from that he said I had it. Being on medicare with part D having a high deductable which I can't afford so I can't get the inhaler that was prescribed:( Now they are offered at $35/month but only if you have commercial Insurance or no insurance. Medicare does not honor this. It started on June first with Boeringer Ingleheim. Very madening!!!
n denial


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