A Guide to COPD for Beginners

I Have COPD. What Now?

COPD for BeginnersAre you a newly diagnosed COPD patient and not sure what to do next?

Many patients want direction but are overwhelmed with the variety of advice they’re given. While I’m not a doctor, I can share my experience and what I’ve learnt along the way.

The Diagnosis

After my initial consultation with my lung specialist I was sent to my local respiratory clinic for pulmonary function tests. I knew something was wrong but wasn’t sure what it was. I’d been an asthmatic since I was a child and suspected it had just become worse. When I returned to my doctor for the results I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

“Russell, I have your results and they’re not great — your lung function is at 22% and you have COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. You will probably need a double lung transplant within five years.”

Many people around the world of a variety of ages receive this news on a daily basis, so where do we go from here?

Taking It In

I’m not sure how long it took for me to accept my diagnosis, but it’s a necessary step on your way to your new life as a COPD patient. The feelings of, “Why me?”and “It’s not fair,” are strong and it’s easy to spiral into a negative state of mind. The best advice I can give is to understand your disease and realize that whilst this isn’t something you asked for, it’s what you’ve been dealt and now you have to adapt.


In previous articles I’ve talked about the psychological battles for COPD patients, and these battles start from day one. Being in control of your head space early in your diagnosis is very important in relation to your long term management of your disease. There is plenty of negative information and people who can set you on a destructive path. It’s essential you don’t fall into that trap.

Get the Important Stuff Right

Rule Number One: If you are still smoking you have to QUIT! It amazes me how many patients continue smoking after they have been diagnosed with COPD. To me it’s a no brainer! If smoking has been responsible for your diagnosis then continuing to do so is going to end very poorly for you.

Ask an ex-smoker how good they feel because they’ve quit smoking, I can guarantee they won’t say they feel worse.

Rule Number Two: Where is your health at? Yes, you have COPD but what about the rest of you? To move forward it’s important to make sure your body and any other ailments are well managed. Many COPD patients have more than one issue with their health and the approach to take must be more holistic.

Talk to all your medical practitioners about forming a management plan that is best for you and your issues. I personally have three Doctors who liaise with each other, so collectively they can have the best health outcomes for me.

Rule Number Three: Never stop learning! I love to listen and read about the experiences of people involved in the COPD community, from patients to carers and medical professionals. There’s not a week goes by that I don’t learn more about my disease and how I can do things better.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come since being diagnosed and believe that my story has many more chapters, but I realize that my best way to manage my disease is to keep learning.

Next page: medications, weight management and healthy eating. 

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