COPD and the Secret of Living Longer
When refrigerated trucks were first on our roads in the 1940s, drivers were warned never to lock themselves in the back, because there was no escape mechanism on the inside latch. One day a driver was found dead, locked in the back of his freezer truck — everybody’s worst nightmare come true.
The cause of death was a mystery because the refrigeration unit itself had not been turned on. But the driver thought it had, and believing he would freeze to death, he had lay down and obligingly did so.
I was told at 40 that I could be in a box within five years. I’ve just rung the bell on 57. So what changed? Well, I changed.
Yes, I am in The Departure Lounge, but my flight has not yet been called. And nor has yours. Perfectly well people will, as you know, leave suddenly, tragically, ahead of us.
I am chary, though, of strappingly healthy people telling me, ‘Well, anyone can get hit by a bus.’ Indeed they can, but our bus has already left the depot!
To live longer with COPD you must first grasp the need for daily exercise and good diet. Follow your chest doctor’s orders, and if you haven’t done Pulmonary Rehab, please try to find a course.
When, last year, I was told to ‘get my affairs in order’, I became very calm. I was sad of course, but I had broken my hip and was a skeletal 38kgs. I couldn’t blow out a candle and was a sitting duck for pneumonia. The slightest cold would finish me off. So I pulled up the drawbridge. I paused in my life and I took stock.
I needed oxygen for exercise and then soon for other activities. I needed to acclimatise to the nose-hose. It is gradually becoming a fixture, although I am not yet 24/7. I purchased portable oxygen and began to wear it out in the world. Embarrassing and liberating at the same time.
A will was finalised, and in preparation for my death, I read both A Course in Miracles and ‘End of Life’ directives—a bet each way if you like.
Funeral arrangements were undertaken, pardon the pun. But how can you pick a song emblematic of you from the millions you have loved; or a scrap of poetry or a line or two of a story from the thousands of volumes you have inscribed on your heart? What are your final words to be?
As per the Desiderata, I surrendered gracefully, not the things of youth, but the idea that I had celebrated my last birthday; heard the voice of a dear friend for the last time. When expecting death, life becomes zoomed in on and framed tightly on events. It might be the last time you see certain family members, who come to visit with their sad faces.
Will your old pet out-live you?
It might be the last time you vote. It might be the last movie you see. It might be the last time you fly. It might be the last sunrise you see from your kayak on a misty lake. Or the last season you taste your home grown vegetables and summer fruits.
This is the mindset of end-stage disease.
At the time he was dying from cancer, Christopher Hitchens imagined Death, as lurking in the hallway like an old bore, hoping to have a word with him. He trapped himself with this image.
Hitch needed to see himself escaping, out the back door, free to once more taste the moonlight, giving Death the slip.
‘Change the way you see things, and the things you see will change’.
In Australia, ‘pointing the bone’ derives from Indigenous customary law and meant you were sentenced to die, without hope of reprieve. Many a man could and did die because a sorcerer ordained it by pointing a bone at him.
I refuse to believe I have a fatal, chronic disease that will kill me in a certain amount of time. I will not point the bone at myself.
Aborigines called it Purri. We know it as Placebo. Powerful mind medicine.
All things are possible.