Hey guys, I'm suddenly deep in the throes of The Medical System (which is like matter and anti-matter colliding) and would like to pick your enormous, squishy frontal lobes if that's OK.

I've been super sick the last month; got a diagnosis of COPD yesterday. Now I'm trying to learn all I can about COPD and asthma, since my symptoms match asthma more than emphysema or bronchitis. Anyone here have any experience with these diseases?

Four and a half weeks ago I suddenly experienced severe shortness of breath and fatigue while working in my garden. Collapsed on the bench unable to catch my breath; barely made it into the house. Went to my doctor a couple of days later where I collapsed in the waiting room from shortness of breath. She sent me to the ER in an ambulance.

The ER was useless as I knew it would be, because that's always my karma with the medical system. The ER doc said I wasn't having a heart attack and released me to go home. I could hardly breathe, talk or stand up to get dressed. Between gasps I asked her what could be causing my shortness of breath. She said she had no idea and walked out.

In the intervening weeks I've had EKGs (normal), a cardiac sonogram (normal), and a full pulmonary function test (85% of normal). If the PFT had happened a couple of weeks sooner it would have been a lot worse.

Yesterday the pulmonologist told me I have COPD. I've never been a smoker or lived with smokers. But all my life I've gotten short of breath and fatigued from running a few yards or even just walking up a flight of stairs. I can lift weights but can't build up any aerobic capacity. None of my doctors ever thought of asthma. They just said I was lazy. I've probably had exercise-induced asthma all my life but never knew it.

Apparently what happened last month was a bad flare-up of some kind. Now being short of breath isn't just exercise-induced, it's all the time, and it's wearing me out.

The pulmonologist said it doesn't matter if it's COPD or asthma specifically, since it's all treated the same way. He gave me some inhalers and said to come back in three months. He was in and out the door in five minutes.

That was it. No counseling or advice for how to live with this, how to prevent another flare or what to do if it happens again. So now I'm trying to come to terms and learn all I can. I learned that respiratory therapy can teach me how to breathe easier, so today I asked my PCP for a referral. She liked that idea and is going to work on it.

I'm not asking for professional medical advice, but do any of you have any suggestions? Tips or tricks for living with this? Good books or websites that go beyond "take your medicine"? I want to get up to speed fast but don't know what's possible or even what questions to ask. Unless I specifically ask these doctors for something they won't think of it on their own.

I hope this wasn't too long or inappropriate. Thanks for listening.