Guest Blog: Smoker’s Shame

A note from Stephanie Lueras, owner of Heart and Sole Fitness & Wellness: I’ve decided that once in awhile I’m going to feature a post from another small business owner that aligns with my values. Carol Rudd, CEO & Founder of Healthy Choices Oasis LLC, is a friend of mine that I first met in a virtual co-working space and our paths continue to cross in other wellness spaces, making the world a much smaller place! She mentioned this article during a networking time yesterday, and I felt compelled to share it others because of my passion in breaking down stigmas. Whether it be body size, mental health, ability, health condition, or anything else under the sun–misconceptions often run amuck, and in the end, we can be the ones that suffer. I am grateful to Carol not only for this article, but for the work that she does. If you have any type of breathing conditions, please reach out to her and see what she’s got available (in-person and virtually), her programs are amazing!

Smoker’s Shame, written by Carol Rudd

If you are a smoker, you have heard of COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It consists of Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis. Emphysema is a breakdown of the air sacs, while bronchitis is chronic inflammation of the airways. “COPD is a progressive disease and therefore affects people later in life. As a result, current or former smokers 40 years or older are the most commonly afflicted with COPD.” (quoted from the Lung Institute website)

Smokers tend not to seek medical help early in their disease process because they have been told by everyone under the sun that smoking is bad for them and they should quit. After several failed attempts, they feel helpless to quit and carry the burden that because of their smoking, it’s their fault. Both my parents were smokers and while my dad, after a heart attack was able to quit smoking, my mom was extremely addicted to smoking. After she had severe lung disease, knowing that smoking was bad for her, she smoked even more. Instead of letting the cigarette burn out in the ash tray, she would inhale deeply until it was gone, even when she was on oxygen! She would go into the bathroom, turn the 02 off, open the window and smoke. Sadly, she would spray lysol to cover up the smell, but everyone knew. My point is this, everyone gave up on mom, including mom!

Smokers are treated differently in healthcare. Not intentionally, but there is a subtle bias of blame, that you brought it on yourself and if you can’t quit, why should we help. Do people with heart disease get blamed for their clogged arteries because they are high stressed and abuse their bodies? NO! Do diabetics get blamed for making poor food choices that lead to or worsen their condition? NO! So, why is it that physicians treating patients with COPD don’t offer Pulmonary Rehab earlier in their diagnosis? Or why is lung volume replacement surgery and lung transpants still considered experimental after more than 20 years? In the last two years, while mortality rates have been declining for Heart Disease and Strokes, deaths from Lung Disease continue to climb, going from 4th to 3rd place in the US.

Smokers feel there is something wrong with them because they can’t shake their addiction to cigarettes. The reality is the tobacco industry has worked to make their products more addictive and at the same time more lethal! Studies show that cigarettes today have more cancer-causing chemicals than ever before!

“In the past, men were most commonly affected with COPD. However with the rise of tobacco use by females, specifically in high-income countries, men and women are now afflicted almost equally. In 2007, approximately 64,000 women in America died of COPD compared to 60,000 men (quoted from the Lung Institute website).”

Second hand smoke is also a concern for children raised in smoking households. “The age of the sufferer directly relates to the age at which his or her lungs were damaged. For example, a child who grew up in a heavily polluted area may be at risk to -developing COPD much earlier in life (quoted from the Lung Institute website).”

Why do I care? First of all, I was raised in that smoke-filled home and struggled with asthma all of my childhood. Secondly, I watched my Mom die a slow and terrible death, toward the end, her carbon dioxide levels were so high, she couldn’t tell her waking from her sleeping and thought her dreams were real. She was a fighter and hung on longer than I thought possible until one night she had some clarity and asked if she was dying. I told her yes and that morning she passed away. I think of the things she could have done differently. Quitting smoking, learning how to eat and exercise better to improve the quality of her life. I couldn’t help my mom, but I can help anyone struggling with COPD. I spent 41 years working with both men and women who had COPD and smoking addictions. Helping them find ways to quit, empowering them to find strategies to improve the quality of their lives was and is my passion. There are many things you can do to help yourself. Choices like eating simple, less processed foods, drinking water, daily exercise, energy conservation and so much more.

My one frustration while working in the Pulmonary Rehab program was I couldn’t help those new to COPD, I had to wait until they were sick enough (Medicare guidelines had specific criteria, based on a pulmonary function or breathing test). They had already lost muscle mass, strength and stamina and were feeling hopeless. Either they had gained weight or were to the point of losing weight because their breathing was more work than the calories they could eat.

So, if you or someone you love is new to COPD, or a current smoker wanting to quit for good, tell them about FIT2Breathe, my program for those newly diagnosed with COPD. The thing is, in life we always have choices, ALWAYS! When we feel powerless or victimized we feel we have no choice. But all it takes is to consciously choose to do it differently. Don’t give up on yourself like my mom did, seek out professionals that can help. No matter where you or a loved one is on the path of COPD or smoking addictions, there are choices!

Thank you Carol Rudd for being our first guest post!

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