Kim Lynch says when she was diagnosed with COPD 10 years ago, she thought it was a death sentence.
Today, Lynch, 42, says it’s “mind over matter” and lives her life with COPD, not being burdened by it.
“It’s easy to be negative—you have to work hard at being positive,” Lynch says. “People think you can only sit on the couch [once diagnosed], but you have to keep yourself moving.”
Recently, Lynch visited the New Hampshire Motor Speedway as a guest of the DRIVE4COPD campaign and COPD Foundation to experience the Nationwide race, featuring DRIVE4COPD Honorary Ambassador Austin Dillon.
It was a hot and humid weekend, but Lynch, who touted her portable oxygen with her, reveled in every minute of the action—having the chance to meet Dillon, sit with his pit crew and really be a part of it all.
Ten years ago, Lynch might have been afraid to leave her house with her COPD diagnosis, but she now knows that she can still do the things she wants to do, sometimes it just takes a little bit of extra planning.
Lynch has Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, the genetic form of COPD. This requires augmentation therapy—weekly IV infusions of alpha-1 antitrypsin derived from human plasma. It is used to increase the concentration of the protein in the blood and lungs. (Augmentation therapy is the only FDA-approved treatment for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Your lung specialist can determine if you are an appropriate candidate for such therapy, which is covered by most insurance plans.)
“You move on and you do what you have to do. I don’t really like being hooked up to an IV every month, but I take it one step at a time,” she says. “I’d love to get more involved…it does wonders for my personality, for my health and for my overall attitude.”
Lynch says her father passed away from COPD when he was 41, and when she was diagnosed 10 years ago, the doctor told her she only had a couple years left to live.
“I only have 25 percent of my lung function, but I refuse to let it hold me back. Just like when I went to NASCAR, I took my oxygen and I did what I needed to do. The more active I am, the better I am,” she says.
She also says that individuals living with COPD who need to be on oxygen should not be ashamed to wear it in public. If anything, she uses it as an opportunity to educate people about her disease.
“Most times, people say, ‘you’re too young to be on oxygen.’ I tell them what I have, and I spread the word, because most people don’t know what it is. So I tell them as much as I can.”
Lynch became connected with AlphaNet, a non-profit organization devoted to improving the lives of individuals living with Alpha-1 through comprehensive disease management services, clinical research administration and consultative services.
She says her AlphaNet coordinator, Fred Walsh, has become someone she can rely on and find inspiration from, too.
“He’s on the treadmill every day, and always out doing so many things—he’s an inspiration to me. He never complains and he’s always positive and keeps me upbeat,” she says.
Her partner Jim and son Ian are supportive of Lynch, with Jim serving as her caregiver, too.
Lynch says she will continue to do what she can to spread awareness and educate people about COPD—any little bit she can to help, she says.