The dreaded question for individuals living with COPD is “Did you smoke?” So much is insinuated in three simple words, and so many in our community have to withstand the stigma associated with the disease. All too often, people with COPD are afraid to reach out for help, let alone raise awareness for the disease, because they believe in the end they will be shamed and blamed for smoking.
Smoking does cause 75% of COPD – but did you know that 25% of COPD patients have never smoked? Environmental,
occupational, and genetic factors also cause respiratory diseases. If you did or do smoke however, know that you are not alone. If you feel stigmatized for your condition, just reach out to our COPD community on Facebook or call the C.O.P.D. Information Line at 1 866 316 2673. What is important now is not to look at the past with regret and shame, but to the future with strength and hope. No one has the right to take that away from you.
This leads me to a piece of news that broke this week. Online news site, Mail Online, reported that late actress Shirley Temple Black was, “…a secret smoker who died from lung disease.” When she passed last month, her family did not disclose COPD as the cause of death, perhaps out of fear that she might be stigmatized for smoking.
This is just one example of an individual who had to live in silence about a disease that is the third leading cause of death in the United States. We hope those living with COPD today will come out of the shadows and help educate others about the nature of the disease. We believe the “shame and blame” culture will decline over time with greater awareness and education about the disease.
We are proud of all of our community members who speak out about COPD, and have the courage to stand up to those who may judge and marginalize us.
Have you been “shamed and blamed” for developing COPD? How did you deal with it? Please share in the comments section.