My Story: Diane Urso

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I noticed I was very short of breath for a few years before being diagnosed with emphysema. I knew something was wrong with my lungs. I could hear wheezing every night as I got into bed and tried to go to sleep. Also, I knew I needed to quit smoking but my addiction was stronger than me, and I just really enjoyed smoking.

For a few years before my diagnosis, I also suffered from repeated bronchitis. Then one day in November of 2012 my body started to swell. It started in my feet, then my legs and I noticed my face. In a few weeks, time of this swelling new symptoms started happening. I became so incredibly weak. So weak I was terrified and felt like if I didn't seek medical treatment, I might die.

In December of 2012, on the 10th to be exact, I was admitted by my doctor to the hospital. My first diagnosis was congestive heart failure. My resting oxygen saturation level was 79 upon being admitted. That was my first day of using oxygen. I've been on oxygen every day since.

My congestive heart failure was due to my heart working overtime to pump oxygen through my body with a high heart rate for quite some time. I was diagnosed with severe emphysema and went home from the hospital after a five-day stay with oxygen and a beginning of a new normal I would have to adjust to. I was encouraged to start going to pulmonary rehabilitation after I became a little stronger.

What advice would you give to someone living with COPD?

Don't give up! Get on that treadmill and walk even if you're tired but pace yourself. Get out there and go to a class with your oxygen on, even if you're scared – do it scared!

Get out there and live. Keep moving. Don't sit any longer than 45 minutes to an hour. Get up, turn on your music and move around! Stay active with resting along the way. Join groups in your city.

Find something you are passionate about! Sewing, crocheting, drawing, cooking find and be active with what makes you smile. Get a group together to play cards or games. Live your life!

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I quit smoking while in the hospital. I have not smoked since December 10, 2012.

While attending pulmonary rehabilitation, I learned all the things I needed to know to live as healthy as I can, and I put them into practice. All of these things I have learned has given me the best quality of life. I often say that "I am living a blessed life one day at a time," and I genuinely am experiencing life differently now with all these new lifestyle changes.

Exercising has become a regular part of my life now. It seems so weird when we feel so fatigued to think of exercising to help give us more energy. However, it's true. I try to do cardio workouts five days a week, muscle strengthening three days a week, and stretching three days a week. I now have a treadmill and elliptical in my family room that I use for cardio.

I have videos of exercises to do for muscle strengthening and a yoga mat I use to do stretching. Keeping active has proven to be very necessary for me. If I miss exercising and become sedentary (just hanging out on the coach) I get weaker and more fatigued.

Also, eating a healthy diet has become part of my new normal. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruits along with whole grains and healthy fats. Also, I have protein with each meal, and it has helped me with my energy levels and made me feel fuller for a more extended period of time. When I grocery shop I try to stock up on all the healthy foods I can. I cook meals like soups, chili, stews, etc. and freeze in individual servings to help keep eating healthy.

I have found drinking water throughout the day was new for me. Now I always have a water bottle near that I'm sipping on throughout the day.

Pacing myself all day long is huge for me. Every day I wake up with a different level of energy. Some days I get tired very quickly, and I need to rest often, but I keep moving with chores, exercising, cooking, taking a shower daily, and I still work for a school district part-time. I am looking at retiring now, and I plan to spend more time with hobbies and bible studies at my church.

Get out there and live.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am proud of choosing to step in faith to quit smoking. I would not be here if I hadn't stopped. I have accomplished living without a cigarette for almost five years now! Unbelievable!!

I have achieved to mostly live a healthy lifestyle in spite of going to a family get together where there are yummy, unhealthy snacks and choose the healthier things there.

I've accomplished finding a way to exercise even when I'm on a camping trip (in our trailer with electricity to run my oxygen concentrator) by walking. I've accomplished to take my new healthy lifestyle wherever life takes me!

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am proud of choosing to step in faith to quit smoking. I would not be here if I hadn't stopped. I have accomplished living without a cigarette for almost five years now! Unbelievable!!

I have achieved to mostly live a healthy lifestyle in spite of going to a family get together where there are yummy, unhealthy snacks and choose the healthier things there.

I've accomplished finding a way to exercise even when I'm on a camping trip (in our trailer with electricity to run my oxygen concentrator) by walking. I've accomplished to take my new healthy lifestyle wherever life takes me!

Who has been there for you? How?

The most important person that comes to my mind that has been there for me and never left my side is my God. When I felt like I might die if I didn't seek medical help I looked to God with so much fear in my mind and heart and said Lord help me I'm in a mess. He sure did hear my prayer.

I could never even imagine myself as a non-smoker ever. While in the hospital I felt so taken care of and loved by my family and the medical staff.

My niece shared a devotion she had read one morning with me while I was still in the hospital. It helped me realize that in my own strength I couldn't quit smoking but with the power of God that He could give me the strength to beat this smoking addiction. So I asked for that strength, and I continue to ask Him daily for strength for all the things I need to do like living a healthy lifestyle now. The word of God (bible) tells me "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13.

Also, my husband is fantastic. He watches over me. Always making sure I have everything I need and cheers me on to go for my walk or choose healthy eating etc. Lastly, I can't forget about my seven grown children that have been here for me, and I have to say my entire family has cheered me on and is there for me constantly.

My niece shared a devotion she had read one morning with me while I was still in the hospital. It helped me realize that in my own strength I couldn't quit smoking but with the power of God that He could give me the strength to beat this smoking addiction.

Is there anything else we should know?

I have always been a fearful person. Afraid of a lot of things. I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. I have found that the more I go and do (even scared) the more confident I feel and the more likely I am to keep going out and living my life.

This disease is hard to live with, and it takes work. There is no cure. My time is limited. But I choose to keep moving. Keep living and do the things that help me feel my best like eating healthy, always using my oxygen, drinking water, exercising faithfully and for me having a relationship with God.

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