Promoting Personal Well Being

Posted on April 07, 2017   |   
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This blog post was written by Barbara Jo Matson who is living with bronchiectasis, asthma, and aspergillosis.

At the age of 15, I almost lost my life due to double mycoplasma pneumonia, which left me with 65% permanent scar tissue on my lungs. Today I am a 59-year-old woman living with bronchiectasis, asthma, and aspergillosis. My experiences with these conditions have altered my life in many ways.

As a result of the pneumonia, I spent 2 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and upon my return home I weighed 82 pounds and could barely hold my head up. It took a month to even be able to walk, and this was while holding onto walls.

Prior to my illness, I had studied some yoga. While recovering, I did yoga stretches and meditation, along with eating well and taking supplements. It truly made all the difference, both mentally and physically. I ended up making it through that school year with a C average, even after missing 3 months of school.

I attribute this quick recovery to the physical practice of yoga, along with my dedication to various meditation techniques. On a daily basis, for about 10 minutes at a time, I would light a candle, gaze into the flame and watch my thoughts go by. It made all the difference, as it allowed me to feel that I were investing in me, by doing something daily that may or may not have done any good; it was in the effort of it!

Additionally, I took my diet very seriously, and to this day, I still do. I began a solo study of wellness, nutrition and basic biochemistry after I was released from the hospital all those years ago.  I realized that in order for my poor, skinny little body to recover I would need to take many supplements to receive the much-needed nutrients I had been lacking.

A few years into my recovery, I became a vegetarian and gave up sugar and junk food completely. At this time, I was almost back to having built up my immune system and regained most of the lost weight.

I wholeheartedly believe that considering all aspects of my life is extremely important to my health; from what I do first thing in the morning to the type of music I listen to throughout the day. To crystalize this point even more, I was recently hospitalized with a deadly infection, MRSA as well as strep. I had been losing weight and not sleeping well. Looking back, I realize that I was feeling immense stress to make ends meet and it completely affected my immune system, causing insomnia, anxiety and lack of interest in my diet. I made what I thought was a minor slip-up in my self-care and things hit me really hard.

I do not harbor blame or feel guilt over this setback, but lesson learned that I couldn't afford to give in to such things as worry. The physical price is too high.

Due to my near death experience at the age of 15, as well as the realization that a healthy lifestyle could add to my well-being, I studied and received a degree in Wellness and related studies in 1991 from the University of Iowa. I still utilize that basic knowledge to do my own self-study and to keep up on the latest medical findings as well as information on alternative medicine.

One of my most preferred and favorite forms of exercise is the practice of Wing Chun Kung Fu. I have been training in this Chinese martial art since 1997 to increase my endurance, as well as over all strength and balance. It is important to seek out an exercise that works for you and fits into your lifestyle.

Along with diet and exercise, I have established some other habits or ways of being that also seek to promote healthiness, from play time with my pets, to body massage, and use of essential oils.

These other established health routines fall under the system of Aryuveda. It is a holistic approach to whole body health, initiating in India thousands of years ago. It speaks to the body, mind and spirit existing in a delicate balance.

I am happy to say that I have gained all of the weight back after spending 6 days in the hospital and my PFTs are better than they have been in years. I feel that paying attention to myself, in all the ways I conveyed above, have been a huge contributing factor of why I am so healthy now, even with bronchiectasis, asthma and a very low level aspergillosis. I encourage you all to take some time and think about what you can do in your daily life to promote your own well-being.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and not of the COPD Foundation. The COPD Foundation advises that before you make any changes to your medications or therapies that you first consult with your doctor.