Over the years, Karen Deitemeyer has developed the mantra, “COPD won’t get me down!” and lives this every day.

Recently, Karen and her husband Bill hosted two of their three grandchildren, Andrew, 8, and Hannah, 11, at their home in Kissimmee, FL.

Though Karen said she had to take her portable oxygen concentrator and oximeter with her on outings during the day, they still had a full agenda planned, including fishing, shopping, going to the zoo and to the beach.

“You learn to adapt—but never quit, and never give up,” Karen said.

Diagnosed with COPD in 2001, Karen said that all individuals with the disease should enroll in pulmonary rehab.

“That’s the number one most important thing any of us can do for ourselves. When you have COPD and breathing problems, you think, ‘Why do they want me to do this? I cannot possibly exercise.’ But you have to learn to strengthen your muscles so that you don’t have to work quite so hard,” she said. “In a good pulmonary rehab, they teach you the physiology about your lungs, about the disease, how to use inhalers, and they give you the feeling that your life isn’t over, and that you can be in control of it—it kind of turns it all around.”

Karen said she started educating herself by going to meetings and joining online support groups.

“You find people who are also living with it, and they have probably already been through what you’re experiencing,” she said. “I went to meetings so I could belong, so I could say, ‘my life isn’t over.’ You should find a group and ask questions and become active—don’t just sit back.”

In addition to COPD, Karen also has osteoporosis, erosive esophagitis, high blood pressure, and is a five-year survivor of breast cancer. In spite of all this, her “active personality” has allowed her to become an advocate in many different ways.

Karen became involved with the COPD Foundation in 2008, when she was asked to participate in the First Annual Florida COPD Summit. Since then, she has participated in COPD education workshops in Florida, gone to Washington, DC, lobbied on Capitol Hill and attended numerous conferences where she’s appeared on patient panels discussing advocacy.

Karen also attended the DRIVE4COPD 300 race at Daytona where she met with NASCAR driver and COPD Foundation supporter Austin Dillon.

Karen continues to be an active member of our COPD community.

“I’ll continue to spread the word about COPD, and I want to do even more advocacy work with various local support groups,” she said. “With diet, life-style changes, and exercise, it is possible to do much more than I ever realized I would be doing.”

Karen urges you to get screened, encourage your loved ones to get screened and join the fight! Take action today to breathe better tomorrow.

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