Rodney, a long-haul truck driver and father to his 28-year-old son, first noticed he was having trouble breathing two decades ago, with it continuing to become more labored over time. About 13 years ago, after working in construction, ironworking, and farming for quite some time, Rodney decided to take back control over his life and seek care for his condition. Despite his diagnosis of severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a progressive lung disease – Rodney has maintained a positive outlook, and shared his story not only to help others recognize their symptoms sooner, but also to inspire those living with COPD to take proactive action and seek out the proper care they need.
Quit smoking, eat right, follow your doctor’s recommendations and treatment plan, and stay as positive and as active as you can.
Do you remember when you first had trouble breathing? How did you feel in that moment?
Rodney: As a single father, I would carry my son while he was sleeping in the early mornings before work. Around the time he was five years old, I started to notice that it was getting harder to breathe doing that. At the time, I attributed it to his growth and him getting heavier…not my diminishing lung capacity. It made me feel weak and out of shape.
What made you seek help and know that it was time to go to the doctor?
Rodney: I was working in construction building homes and I was carrying a sheet of plywood up a ladder to the second-floor gable peak, and when I was almost to the top, I had a very hard time catching my breath and started having an anxiety attack. I dropped the sheet of plywood to the ground and hung on the ladder trying to calm down. That afternoon, I went to the doctor, and he recommended I have a chest X-ray.
How have you worked to get your COPD under control and how has your life changed for the better as a result?
Rodney: I quit smoking cigarettes, used a mask in inhalation-hazard areas, stayed active, changed my diet, and tried to maintain a positive and grateful attitude.
Quitting smoking was the best thing I could have done. That in itself allowed me to deepen my faith. It gave me a more confident and grateful attitude to strive to do better in other aspects of my life, like eating healthier, staying active and being a better person.
When thinking about the impact COPD has had on you, what have you learned about yourself through your COPD journey?
Rodney: That my spiritual and mental health is not only beneficial, but essential to my physical health and helps me to have control of my COPD.
Who do you/have you turned to during challenging times? Can you tell us about how their support has impacted you?
Rodney: My faith has helped me, not only in my addiction to nicotine, but during so many other challenging times in my life. I know that ‘this too shall pass.’
Also, my wife, Rasi. She is one of the kindest, gentlest, and beautiful souls I have ever met; her love and commitment to health and long life is very inspirational and a blessing to me.
What advice would you give others who either are struggling with their COPD currently or who think they may have it?
Rodney: If they smoke, to quit. Stay active, follow doctors’ recommendations, eat healthy, and stay positive. I also try to keep things simple, it seems to work for me. My New Year’s resolution for this year was only to “Keep Breathing.”
What inspires you to share your story with others?
Rodney: The good people in my life who have helped me in my journey and their ability to share their experiences, weaknesses, strengths and hope, inspires me to do likewise.