Being a salesman was stressful, but it also could be boring at times. I had started smoking when I was 17 years old, and when I was working, cigarettes offered a way to deal with stress and pass the time when I was bored. I went through more than two packs a day at one point. Back then, I was like many other young people; I thought I was invincible.
But then things started to change. I picked up a smoker's cough, and by 1994, when I was in my early 50s, I started getting out of breath. I hadn't really noticed it before, but for the first time, I couldn't keep up with people when we were walking in a group.
Now I use oxygen around the clock
I went to the doctor and found out I had COPD. To be honest, I didn't know anything about the condition. I'd heard of bronchitis and emphysema, though, and it turns out that COPD is a combination of both.
When you have COPD, tiny structures within your lungs become irritated and damaged, and breathing becomes more and more difficult. As a result, it becomes harder to do physical activities without getting short of breath. The disease has no cure; the goal is to keep it from getting worse.
The best thing you can do is quit smoking; I finally quit in 2001. I tried everything: the patch, gum, oral medications, and, finally, hypnosis. Hypnosis worked for me; I never had another cigarette. It doesn’t even bother me to be in the presence of people smoking.
Shortly after, I had back-to-back surgeries to clean out arteries in my neckwhich were clogged due to atherosclerosisthat could have caused a stroke. After that, my breathing became much worse. That's when I started using oxygen.
I use a machine that provides extra oxygen for me to breathe. A tube delivers this oxygen to my nose 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I need 15 liters of oxygen every minute, which is an extremely heavy dose.
At home, a machine called a concentrator provides my oxygen by concentrating the oxygen from the air in the room. When I'm out of the house, I carry a refillable container of liquid oxygen with a strap that goes over my shoulder. I don't even notice the sound anymore, but people have told me it sounds like a garden hose running.