So I’ve just been diagnosed with COPD. Hoping to hear from someone who has figured out how to manage the ailment and continue the backpacking. This has come as a shock to me. I’m 61 now. Lived a active lifestyle and backpacked since Boy Scouts. Like all of you, I don’t want to just give up. Thanks in advance
Loc: Portland, OR
I don't know anyone with COPD. It sounds ugly, though. My only advice is that, while you may not be able to do all you wish or all you once did, you should be able to learn what your body is willing and able to accomplish, keep your hiking goals within your physical limits, and still get out there.
When my brother was afflicted with Type I diabetes at age 12, the usual medical advice was very restrictive and confining. Instead, he developed his own methods and kept on camping hiking with our family, and later backpacking in very remote places. A few years ago, in his early 60s and after bypass surgery, he and I still shoehorned in a couple of backpacks trips together. So, don't despair.
If your family worries about you being in the backcountry, get a PLB or a SPOT messaging unit, so they'll, uh, breathe a bit easier.
If you haven't already, talk to your physician about your desire to continue backpacking and see what they say. They should be able to tell you how to minimize the discomfort while doing what you like to do.
Thanks guys, I m sure not going to treat it by setting on the couch. Besides that would drive my wife nuts. Btw my primary care says essentially to sit on the couch. Guess I’ll pack my inhalers and try some short overnight trips. Or maybe get a campsite and try the hiking trails first. I’ll let you know how it goes in case someone on the forum comes down with this.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Interesting that the reputable online outfits such as Mayo Clinic, Medline, etc., talk about exercise therapy being important for managing COPD. I'd question what your primary care provider is telling you, maybe consult a specialist or two.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Agree with OM, find a doc who isn't so defeatist, and if you can, one who participates in a lot of sports him/her self.
One of the things I came across on a short jaunt across google land was some research paper talking about the benefit of weight lifting for COPD patients (strengthens muscles around the lungs and such), so talk to a doc (other than your regular doc) about that as well.
If you haven’t already, get a referral to a pulmonologist. They are trained specifically in the area of lung diseases and can give you far better guidance than can a GP on dealing with COPD. My wife was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis over 12 years ago. This is a progressive and ultimately fatal lung disease without a lung transplant. She was accepted into the transplant program at the U of AZ med school and in anticipation of her transplant entered into a pulmonary rehab program together with a lot of advanced COPD patients. Most of the rehab involved exercise. About half the patients entered into the exercise program enthusiastically; the other half did not. I could tell the difference just by looking. I think a responsible pulmonologist would recommend exercise “as tolerated” for you. Worth a look anyway. BTW: my wife is now 8 years post-transplant and, aside from some fairly harsh anti-rejection meds she’s taking, is doing fine.
I supposedly have COPD and I believe that I do have some but I think that my main problem is due to congenital back problems which has only one lung working due to compression of everything in the chest cavity. As I get older and I shrink the problem has gotten worse. I presently am using Symbacort daily and Albuterol when hiking and that helps some. I have found that I just have to cut back on expectations. In the past I would do 15-20 mile days and now I do 5-10 and just enjoy being out there. Believe me going shorter and slower beats not going at all.
I have never actually been diagnosed by a lung specialist but I don't think that a "proper" diagnosis would change anything anyway. Just learn to live with it as long as you can. As we get older we slow down anyway so it is just a part of the process.
I'm sorry to hear that, you have my sympathy. I definitely agree with what others have said about having a doctor who is both knowledgeable and supportive of your desire to keep backpacking. It also seems from what I have read that there are effective treatments for COPD and that staying physically active is good for it, as well as for your morale. I have been having some respiratory issues myself. I guess they ruled out COPD, probably more like bad allergies along with some asthma. Whatever, it seems like there are a lot of grey areas between conditions and multiple possible diagnosis, so I'd be sure to get a second opinion, your doctor could be wrong, as well as be defeatist. They attribute a lot of COPD (and other respiratory problems) to smoking, which I have never done. However, I know that for me, smoke from wildfires and campfires is a major aggravating thing (as well as pollution and damn dusts at my job). Avoiding campfires and smokey campgrounds is a good thing to do, if we have breathing issues, and I'm tying to plan backpacks that stay away from wildfire smoke, difficult though that may be. Thanks for sharing and keep us posted. As you can see, many of us share many sorts of ailments in common, and it's inspiring to hear how others are coping and still pursuing our common passion.
I have emphysema from 30 years of cigarettes and smoking dope. Past couple years have been a mother so I've not been out for much. I work on Harleys for my paycheck so I am pushing 800 pound motorcycles around 5 or 6 days a week. I take Symbicort for it and spirometry shows no progression of disease. But I've gained weight and the knees are suffering because of it. However my doctor has never mentioned limiting or stopping activities. Not even racing motorcycles which I've been doing for decades. She just says I sound good and should exercise with the caveat of using an inhaler prior to heavy exertion. So find another doctor. Don't sit on a couch and rot from the inside out. We cannot make it go away but that doesn't mean surrender. Do what you feel comfortable doing and worry about death when it arrives at your door but not a moment sooner. If you feel winded have a seat and relax for a few minutes. Enjoy the sites and sounds. Being in a hurry is for people who have time for such nonsense. Enjoy life don't rush headlong into a grave.
I'm currently 73. Years ago I smoked but quit in 1983 and haven't smoked since. Since then I've done mountain climbing and strenuous hiking and backpacking trips along with x country skiing. A year ago I was diagnosed with COPD and saw a pulmonary specialist. After a lot of experimentation and research, along with advice from the specialist, I ended up taking Stiolto, a long acting inhaler but also use Ventolin, which is considered a "rescue inhaler". I found that taking Ventolin before a hike or other strenuous activity made my breathing better during the course of the hike. Everyone is different and it's very important to try different medications until you find the one that's right for you. I tried 4 different long term inhalers before I found the right one. I'm still out hiking new trails and plan to keep on going.