Mediaplanet: What was Leonard’s reaction when he first heard he had COPD? What was your reaction?
Julie Nimoy: When Leonard first learned he had COPD he was very surprised. I think my dad had more fear about developing lung cancer because he was a heavy smoker for so long. However, once he was diagnosed, he felt some optimism as he believed that with the right treatment his symptoms may improve and he’d be able to manage it.

I was relieved to know my dad finally had a name that described the symptoms he had been dealing with for years. My biggest concern was that COPD was a progressive disease and in my dad’s case, it was already in an advanced form.

MP: What was it like for Leonard to manage COPD symptoms?
My dad was an excellent patient and followed his doctor’s instructions without any issue. He did as much as he could until he became too sick to continue. Unfortunately, as many doctors told us, most COPD patients, like my dad, get diagnosed when the condition is already in an advanced stage.

MP: How did living with COPD impact Leonard’s life?
JN: As the disease progressed, my dad’s life started to change pretty quickly. We had a family house in Lake Tahoe that my dad loved going to on a regular basis. As he became more oxygen dependent, it became difficult for him to go there because of the elevation. Sadly, he and my stepmom had to sell the house and it affected him greatly.

MP: Throughout Leonard’s life, he remained relatively private. Why do you think he became so open about his COPD diagnosis?
JN: In 2014, my dad and stepmom were coming home from vacation and dad was spotted at the airport in a wheelchair with his oxygen. The paparazzi shot video and stills of him which immediately went viral. Despite the fact that he was a very private man, my dad felt a sense of urgency to bring attention and awareness to COPD. Subsequently, he became very pro-active by posting messages daily on his twitter page.

MP: Why have you made it your mission to carry out Leonard’s legacy?
JN: My dad and I were very close throughout my life. Since creating awareness for COPD was so important to him, my husband David and I felt that producing a documentary film on COPD would be not only a great tribute to him but also carry on his final mission. 

MP: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions surrounding COPD?
JN: The biggest misconceptions surrounding COPD are: even if you quit smoking years ago, you still may develop COPD. Secondly, even if you’ve never smoked before, there’s a genetic/environmental connection which is just as serious as if you had been a smoker. Also, 50% of all the folks today who have COPD are unaware that they even have it. Finally, unlike cancer and heart disease, COPD cases are actually increasing each year. 

MP: Why is there a negative stigma towards patients with COPD?
JN: The main reason there’s a negative stigma is because the majority of COPD cases, up to 85%, can be attributed to being a smoker. It’s sad that patients who have COPD feel that they brought this on themselves because of their smoking habit. Quite often non-smokers also feel the same way – that they were responsible for their illness.

MP: If Leonard were still here today, what do you think his message would be?
JN: First and foremost, if you’re smoking you need to quit right away. Secondly, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with COPD, you need to get diagnosed immediately so that you can start treatment ASAP.  And, with the right treatment, you can still “Live Long and Prosper!”

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