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Readers Respond: What Has Been the Most Insensitive Thing Someone Has Said About Your Disease?

Responses: 66


Updated April 24, 2009

An invisible stigma is often attached to the diagnosis of COPD, as if being a smoker, or having been a smoker, makes a person "deserve" it. Because of this stigma, people can sometimes make insensitive comments which, for the most part, aren't meant to hurt you, but are made without the presence of forethought. With this in mind, what has been the most insensitive comment that someone has made to you about your disease? How did you handle it? Did you walk away, or fire back? Share your story here and then learn from others as they share theirs.

Share Your Comments

COPD - Hard to Care For

My mother has COPD. Over the last 5 years since diagnosis her condition, of course, has deteriorated. She's practically chair-ridden now and needs constant care. Everyone is willing to pitch in. But she's SO nasty, mean and spiteful to me and my dad. Calling him lazy, saying everyone wishes she was dead, blaming us for her condition, literally demanding sympathy (she'll sit there and ask us to feel sorry for her). She's hard to be around and I have grown to despise her. I just wish ppl would consider the people coping with the patients. It's a common thing, but she won't see a doctor about her mood swings because she's paranoid and convinced everyone is against her.
—Guest Nobody

If They Don't Like it, Too Bad

I have severe COPD and wear oxygen 24/7. People stare when I have oxygen but now I don't care. I need it and I am a beautiful person inside and out, so that is my story; if they don't like it too bad for them!
—Guest Susan

Niagara Falls

My boyfriend of 11 years, daughter, grandson, and I went to Niagara Falls about a month ago. I had been there with the boyfriend 4 years ago and couldn't do much of anything. My diagnosis was new and I wasn't fighting back. If my breathing got bad, I gave in to the physical feelings and would sit down. This summer, I vowed to do anything I wanted, no matter how long it took. We got to the apex of the hill and I was pretty breathless. The boyfriend, my daughter, and grandson all went down to the railings just above the falls. I stayed at the top initially. I had convinced myself that if I went down there was no way I'd get back up to the top. After about five minutes, I cursed myself out quite well and started the trek down. I knew I'd have to take several pauses to get back to the top, but on our return as I was heading slowly upward my boyfriend started teasing my breathing making huffing sounds. I was so furious, I almost jogged the rest of the way up.
—Guest danae67

If you would exercise more....

I was told by someone that I truly love with all the best intentions how she worries about me & if I exercised more my lungs would strengthen. If I am struggling to breathe, I cant be exercising long and she wants me to Zumba with her! I have had pneumonia for the second time in one year and on prednisone and Levoquin again. I was told by my own sister when she came to visit me and we were playing Wii Just Dance with my grandchildren that I just need to do that everyday. I agree I pushed myself, but even my other sister who is 60 pounds lighter than me could not catch her breath and had to sit down after doing 2 songs in a row. I try! I also had hypogammaglobulemia and chronic bronchitis. I always hope my diagnosis will change but its hard to face that I do have COPD/chronic bronchitis, hypothyroidism and diabetes type 2. Even my own husband is surprized when a simple cold turns to severe almost immediately. I stopped working in June 2012 to try to heal this past pnemonia. What now
—Guest Terry

More than smoking

Yes, there are other reasons other than smoking -- I was a premature baby, then had the old bad measeles and was in a coma for days, at two years old, then right after that I had whooping cough . During my lifetime I had pneumonia a couple of times. Yes, people look at me and stare - like you brought it on yourself - (which I did partly) but I'm in a group of people every week - and there are about 40 of us - and we were talking - and each and everyone of them said they had smoked during their lifetime -- yet, I am the only one with COPD and on oxygen. Yes, my doctors treat me like "I deserve" it, too. There needs to be more enlightment as to our condition. Question - are any of you taking the new medicine "Daliresp"? and if so, has it helped? thanks -
—Guest Carol E

Told I Have a Mental Problem

I had no idea the depression and panic attacks were caused from COPD. I was told I had a mental problem by my own sister. The doctor put me on Cymbalta. I also have severe osteoporosis. Cymbalta has helped with the bone pain and the anxiety and panic attacks. Thank God for the intelligence of my doctor. She is great.
—Guest patricia Kirchen

Grown Children Can Be So Cruel

I have 3 grown daughters who live in the area, in fact, one is living with us. I'm a stage 4 COPD patient and have considerable difficulty doing even trivial chores. Bending over is impossible. If I ask for help with anything, my daughters think I'm just being lazy and they become offended just because I asked for help. I'm 72 years old and am very frustrated! I pay one daughter to do some housework (when she feels like doing it). I'm very frustrated!
—Guest Pat

Judgmental People

I have been recently diagnosed with mild emphysema. I am 60, woman, unemployed, quit smoking 5 years ago with nicorette gum. Still chew the gum for the nicotine but at least not going to my lungs. If you are still smoking with emphysema. Please try to quit. Also, I know it is very hard to quit and I have been there. Yes, people are very judgmental regarding putting blame on someone that smoked. I do not judge other people's faults, they should judge a person with emphysema!!! Good luck and good health for as long as possible. If you really care about your health you will quit smoking, change your lifestyle, exercise and eat anti-oxidant foods to help the oxygen in your lungs and blood. That is what I am planning to do. I hope I live to at least 75.
—Guest Kathy

It's Only Asthma

A benefit's advisor at Job Centre says it's only asthma. Nearly had me in tears -- and left me feeling guilty for being unwell.

It's Too Late For You

I have been told the following; "You have reached the point of no return so you may as well smoke because it is too late for you anyway." I suppose they are right and I should be my affairs in order. I will be glad to not be on this earth anymore and don't have to deal with such cruel people.
—Guest Annemarie

How My Mom Handles Rude Comments

I don't have COPD, I have a mother that does and I see her nearly everyday. She is on oxygen and has a hard time doing a lot of things that used to be so easy for her. What I am really proud of her for (besides her determination to be as independent as possible) is how she handles "rude comments". She is never snarky to people. We were grocery shopping one day and a little girl was staring at her so she said "Do you want to know what this is?" and the little girl nodded. So Mom told her it was oxygen and that she needed it to help her breathe. Then she told the little girl that this is why she shouldn't smoke and she should try to keep her lungs healthy. The little girl nodded and I know she will never forget it. This has happened more than once. Mom no longer smokes and it is not the only reason she has COPD, having pneumonia numerous times as well.
—Guest Wynterr

Smoking Comments Not Insensitive

I don't think that the smoking inquiries are "insensitive". It's a legitimate question, something folks wonder about. Why do people do stuff they know to be harmful or dangerous?

Medical Insensitiity

I have experienced so much insensitity from ER staff & my doctor or physician's assistant. Any scents or smells trigger a reaction so I ask to be away from the lobby area or rooms with them. Also staff wears perfumes, hair products, dry sheets ect. My PA said COPD is all the same treated with a couple of meds only. I just want to know what type I have and what stage & she says they have perfumes there too and won't treat you as nice. She even rolls her eyes at me when I'm out of breath from tests. To all the ER staff & doctors who think everything is anxiety. Yes, someone said COPD is a gift wrapped in anxiety, but first I had the breathing attack, then the anxiety. Now their indifference is helping me develop panic attacks. They are horrible. Too hard to go to counselor; going back & forth is just too much. This is shear hell. But want to enjoy what I have left. Bless you all for your understanding & caring.

That's What You Get For Smoking

Someone said "COPD? Well, that's what you get for smoking!" (I am a former smoker). I usually reply "Thanks, I got COPD on sale at Walmart. Did you get your insensitivity from Walmart, too?"
—Guest anne

So What?

I have very severe COPD plus emphysema. My wife does not understand this and gets angry if any attempt is made to explain it. She uses cans of aerosol air freshener all around the house and says "so what" when I ask her nicely to spray a bit less. Out in public people can be so nasty, even using insults to annoy me and make themselves feel smart. Yes, so many people out there suck big time. But perhaps their turn is coming. When it does, I hope they enjoy it.
—Guest victor

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What Has Been the Most Insensitive Thing Someone Has Said About Your Disease?

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