A woman living with COPD could go through several changes in her appearance; gaining or losing weight, changing
skin texture, or the use of portable oxygen and nasal cannula can all be part of the changes you see in your physical appearance. (Check out this good resource on COPD and sexuality from the COPD Big Fat Reference Guide®.) Even the basic things you used to do, such as carrying stylish bags or wearing heels seem out of the question when you feel tired and out of breath carrying your oxygen concentrator. It’s these things that as women, we define as being “feminine,” and anything apart from this means we’ve lost our femininity, and possibly, our sexual attractiveness.
These are large hurdles for women with COPD to overcome but as the experts say, it’s definitely possible. So what do you do when you just don’t like the way you look? Kellie seems to have found a way to reinvent her fashion sense.
“I was not thrilled when they showed me the . . . backpack options for my O2 canisters . . . I am a handbag gal. Love them! I passed this love onto my daughter . . . Between us we have a ridiculous amount of beautiful and expensive bags [but] many of my bags were not long enough. My O2 canister is about 12 inches long and some of them were not leather (which means they would tear or get punctured). But I found two that I can use. And, now I am looking at stores for new options.”
So, what do you do? Be creative. Think outside the box, redesign your routine and doing things a little differently than usual can get you to doing some of the things you used to do. Like a handbag for your canister, you can switch out those heels for a cute pair of leather-stitched flats. COPD doesn’t define you. It’s what you have in your heart that does.
The most important thing to do is realize that you are still YOU. COPD affects your lungs but it doesn’t have to affect your mind, self-esteem or femininity. You’re still a woman, and although you may not feel the same as before, you have to realize that these challenges are going to bring out of you a strength that is admirable. My buddy Karen said it best when a few of us were discussing this on Facebook last week. She says to Kellie, “It is only with courage like yours that we will all get through this. That is pretty glamorous and better than any jewels out there.”
There will always be a way to go around the obstacles. I didn’t find much information online about body image in relation to a COPD diagnosis. (If you know of some sites, please post a link to them.) No matter what disease state—or lack thereof—body image is an issue that women of all ages struggle with.
I’d like this blog to be the beginning of a discussion. Post your comments, thoughts, and exchange ideas here.