Because he smoked and has COPD, Michael struggles for breath when he walks. He used to tell his co-workers small lies to keep his health condition a secret. Michael now realizes he told himself the biggest lie: that smoking wasn’t dangerous.


Michael, age 57, started smoking when he was 12 years old because he wanted his friends to think he was cool. He would sneak cigarettes from family members who smoked.  Over time, Michael’s addiction to cigarettes grew until he was smoking an average of two to three packs a day.

In his early 40s, Michael started having shortness of breath. He found ways to hide his condition from his co-workers so they wouldn’t know he couldn’t keep up with them.  Then at 47 years old, Michael was diagnosed with smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He had part of his right lung removed because of an infection. A few years later, Michael had more surgery, on his left lung this time. By the time he was 51 years old, Michael had to quit working because of his difficulty breathing. That year he also quit smoking.

Michael’s COPD is considered Stage 4 and he uses oxygen to help him breathe. His advice to people who smoke is to stop smoking immediately. “Think about all you’ll have to give up and ask yourself if it’s really worth it,” Michael said. “I can tell you, it’s not.”