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Living with COPD Every Day: Sean’s Story

Pinch your nose and try breathing through a straw? Not so easy, right? This is the sensation patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) struggle with every day. Whether you are experiencing COPD first-hand or caring for someone with the condition, it may always feel like there is a new challenge ahead. 

Living with COPD 

Almost 15 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD, with another 12 million having COPD-like symptoms such as breathlessness, chronic coughing and wheezing, but remain undiagnosed. 1 As the third leading cause of death in the US, COPD kills more people than diabetes and breast cancer combined. 2

For many COPD patients, the disease can make it difficult to breathe and can turn a simple task into a challenging endeavor.

Sean’s Story

Sean always considered himself somewhat of a fitness fanatic – an amateur marathon runner, swimmer and indoor soccer player – but his active lifestyle was brought to a halt when he started to experience symptoms of COPD. Sean realized he couldn’t run as far without experiencing tightness in the chest and wheezing. He found himself having to sub out from the soccer field after two minutes of play due to extreme shortness of breath.  Although he used to be a smoker, he had not touched a cigarette for more than 24 years.

After visiting numerous doctors for several years, the father of five was finally diagnosed with COPD. Sean worked with his doctor to find the right treatment plan that worked for him, and with the support of his family, took small steps to gain control of his COPD. Goal setting is critical part of Sean’s care management. Sean has set personal goals for himself, including meditating in the morning, exercising, doing respiratory yoga, and eating correctly.

I would have never reached this point of correct diagnosis had I not been 100% honest with my doctor.

Sean believes it is important for patients to be open and honest when speaking with their doctor about the symptoms they are experiencing. This honest communication can save a significant amount of time getting to a correct diagnosis. He also encourages patients to be their own best advocate by setting attainable goals to help manage their COPD.

View the COPD information to learn more about the disease.
View the COPD information to learn more about the disease.

What is COPD?

COPD is a disease of the lungs that is characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing. 1 Long-term exposure to lung irritants that damage the lungs and the airways—such as cigarette smoke, second hand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes or dust from the environment or the workplace—can all contribute to COPD. Most people who have COPD are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin, however, they mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging.2

Commitment to respiratory disease

GSK has a long heritage in research and innovation around respiratory disease. Over the past 45 years, we have been committed to developing treatments that help patients worldwide who suffer from breathing-related illnesses, furthering the science and awareness of respiratory disease. To do this, it takes great understanding of the disease itself and how patients manage their own health.

COPD can be very difficult for patients to manage and each patient’s experience with the disease is different. That is why we think it is critical to understand the daily challenges that Sean, and others like him, face as we work to improve care for patients with COPD and other respiratory diseases. It is not easy, but together we can help those with COPD do more, feel better and live longer.


1 2009 Chart Book on Cardiovascular, Lung and Blood Diseases, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Breast Cancer Statistics: Top 10 Causes of Death for Women in the United States, 2005.

3 Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet; 2015. Available at:

4 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Who is at risk for COPD? Available at: