Two Peas in a Pod

February 17th, 2012 | Author: Janina Kowalski

A Mother’s struggle with COPD teaches her daughter perseverance

While training to run her first half marathon, Erika McLaughlin finds her motivation and inspiration from her mother, Carole McLaughlin.

“There are so many memories that I hold close to my heart when I think of her. One that sticks out is Nags Head, North Carolina; her sitting in a chair next to my dad, toes in the sand, reading a book, watching her children play, and enjoying the beautiful warm sun,” Erika says.

She describes her mother, who passed away in 2010 due to COPD, as the glue that held the family together.

“We were two peas in a pod. My father died when I was 11, and my older siblings were already out of the house. For years it was her and I alone. From a young age I could tell her anything and she would be there for me. She supported my endeavors, my choices, my activities,” Erika says. “I called her every day when I was away in college. Not only did I rely on her advice, but she was such an important part of my life, I wanted her to be a part of my everyday life in college. She did not have an easy life—she suffered many tragedies in her life, but she was a fighter, a survivor. She instilled these traits in me and my two siblings.”

From left to right: Carole, Erika and sister Kim Durbin

Erika remembers Carole’s struggle with COPD. Working hard to raise their family, Carole struggled with breathing issues for years. She had asthma, smoked, and would get bronchitis or pneumonia every few years. In November 2008, Carole was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with COPD.

“Her diagnosis was difficult on her, but due to her survivor mentality, she took it as a challenge,” Erika says.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) was a source of strength for Carole—she went there several times a week and developed a close relationship with group members. After a few months of PR, Carole returned to work full time.

Erika says that Carole had bad breathing days and couldn’t do much.

“She walked slower and had to take breaks. She struggled to pick up her grandchildren that she adored,” she says. “The Prednisone she took affected her personality, weight, and mood, and that was very difficult for her.”

The COPD diagnosis affected Erika as well.

“After her hospital stay in 2008, I was worried all the time that something would happen to her, but she worked so hard at her rehab and took her disease very seriously. In some ways, it had a positive effect on her because she started taking better care of herself and putting herself first,” she says. “The hardest part for me was watching her not be able to do the things she once loved to do, and struggling to walk a few steps without getting out of breath. Because she was so tough, and such a fighter, I believed that she would live much longer than she did. She was admitted into the hospital on October 23, 2010 with pneumonia, and died 2 days later of septic shock. Her death devastated my family.

“Although smoking is related to this disease, no one deserves this. Her struggle to quit smoking was so hard on her, and it took her hospitalization in 2008 to finally kick the habit. This disease is devastating; it took years away from my mother, and she will never see her grandchildren grow up,” Erika says.

The devastating impact of COPD and the strength many have fighting it inspired Erika to run in the 45th Annual Athens Marathon on April 1, 2012.

Erika acknowledges that training for a marathon is a big commitment, both physically and mentally, and credits her mom as her inspiration to persevere when training becomes really challenging.

Not only is Erika running the marathon for her mother, but for all the other individuals living with COPD. Erika has set up her own fundraising webpage to get others involved with her marathon and raise funds for the COPD community.

Inspired to follow Erika’s example? Please visit the COPD’s first giving page at:

Here you can create your own fundraising project or remembrance page!

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