Rodger Shepard

I was a police officer for 28 years, of which the last 5 years I served as an Arson Investigator. In 2008, I was diagnosed with COPD. They said it was likely caused by my time as an Arson Investigator, because of all the toxins my lungs were exposed to. I also smoked for a while when I was young, which also contributed.

Tell us about your lung journey.

The first time it really hit home how difficult it would be to live with this disease was when I retired from the Police force in 2010.  I had planned a hike with my family to see some waterfalls in the Rockies, during our drive across Canada. We paid for the tickets and then were told that there would be at least 700 steps up to see the falls. I told the lady at the ticket booth that there was no way I could possibly make it up all those stairs with my lungs in this condition. Luckily, there was a road we could drive that would take us up to the falls.

I was disappointed that we missed out on the hike and realized that there would be no more brisk walks or rigorous exercise for me. It would be one foot in front of the other from now on.

After retiring I was also asked to do a speaking engagement, where I’d have to speak for about thirty minutes (8 hours per day/talk). I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak that long as I wouldn’t have enough air to get all the words out. I sadly had to decline the offer.

Do you have any issues with the healthcare you have received?

One thing that really frustrates me now is that there are no exercise facilities that cater to people with COPD. There are modified exercises for pregnant women but nothing for people suffering from lung disease. I want to be in shape but there are limited exercises I can do so I wish there could be facilities which would offer modified classes.

Since there is currently nothing available, my wife and I decided to do what we can to get fit and healthy on our own. We purchased Fit Bits for each other, and we are trying to reach our goal of approximately 5km per day. I am already noticing a difference in my health, but it would still be nice to see exercise facilities expand their programming to account for those who want to get healthy but have difficulty breathing.   

Because there is no cure for COPD, I am aware that, in my future, I’ll likely be dragging an oxygen tank with me everywhere I go. I am trying my best to stay healthy and active, but I am limited in what I can do, so this is my reality.

Page Last Updated: 11/11/2021