Joanne Iuliucci is a survivor—and a motivator.
She is living with Stage-4 COPD, and received a lung transplant this past June. She was a smoker of 40 years, and quit in November 2010.
“I always thought emphysema was for older people, but when I was 36, I had signs of it. When I turned 44, I couldn’t breathe and had to cut back a lot,” Joanne says.
She was told she had cancer, and that doctors couldn’t do anything for her. She had young kids at the time, and was scared to hear this diagnosis.
At the age of 52 she switched doctors, which turned things around for her. Joanne was given PFTs and x-rays and that was when she was told she had COPD.
“I never knew COPD came in ‘stages’—this was all news to me,” she says. In 2011, Joanne’s doctor proposed the idea of a lung transplant—Joanne was resistant at first.
“As the months went by, I became worse and worse and when I was evaluated, I was told I only had 27% lung capacity,’ she says.
Joanne was in and out of the hospital, and remembers becoming increasingly frustrated because she was so restricted from doing the things she wanted to.
She received a lung transplant June 28, 2012.
“Sometimes, I don’t think people realize how much COPD can affect someone’s life. So, the day after my transplant, I got myself out of bed—I refused to lay there and give up,” she says.
Three days after surgery, Joanne began taking small steps from her bed to a chair nearby.
“I had faith and determination that I was going to beat this, so I was positive in every day,” she says. “Now that I am three months post [transplant], I’m still going strong. I’m making changes to my life—all positive—and I am doing what I can to spread awareness.”
On October 6th of this year, Joanne and her daughter organized a COPD event, recruiting a couple people to the cause.
“I always tell people, baby steps are very important. It took me a long time to learn this, but now I can take my message to people who need to hear it,” she says.