After a week filled with others doing things to help me, including spending more than six hours on a weeknight helping me move to a new home, I was thrilled to be able to do something for someone else this weekend. The joy I felt from cooking a meal for a friend who normally has to cook for her kids, was something I have not felt in a really long time (though she insisted on making dessert, which I happily accepted: she is a pastry-making genius).
I not only didn’t want to lose that feeling, I also didn’t fully understand why I felt so much joy in ‘just cooking.’ So I did some reflecting on it, and chose to make it the subject of this column.
Many idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients frequently need and rely on others to help us with things: carrying our oxygen tanks, shopping for groceries, running an errand. The list goes on and on. Relying on the help of others has been my life over the past few months.
I will be coming up to my diagnosis date of one year ago next month, and as I’ve written before, it is very hard to get used to having others people do things for you. To be able to invite a friend over, show her my new house, and cook a dinner that was both healthy and delicious (yes, she confirmed it was) really meant a lot. It took me probably double the time it might take someone else to cook the meal while being tethered to an oxygen tank, but I was able to do everything independently, with the exception of cutting through the spaghetti squash (that was just too hard for me).
I think like many IPF patients, I’m often at a loss about what I can do to “repay,” or give back, to all the people who have, and are, helping me along the path of this disease. Financial payback is certainly not an option, given my medical and personal expenses at this time. Nor would anyone expect that type of remuneration.
Since I love children, I used to offer to take a friend’s kids overnight, or for a weekend, as a way to say “thank you.” This is hard now because my physical abilities have changed, and because of the germs that naturally come with our littlest humans. Sometimes I would offer to run an errand for someone, or pick up lunch (that last I can still do on occasion). However, in terms of giving back and saying thanks, what else can I offer to the people who help me so much day to day?
My friend who came over last night, in particular, has been extremely helpful throughout this last course of medication and medical/health changes. She is not wary of this disease, and is one of those friends who is comfortable with tough conversations. Quite frankly, I am not sure what I would be doing without her, and so being able to make her dinner really meant a lot to me. I felt as if I had finally found a way to say “thank you.”
I know she would tell me that friendship is not about needing to ‘pay back’ someone for the help you have received. That being said, it certainly felt nice to be able to spend quality time together. I was able to show her my new house all set up, and enjoy a nice dinner before playing some guitar.
When faced with a life-threatening illness, moments like this — where I can find laughter, inner peace, and the joy of doing something for others — are rare. So I am embracing the feeling and wanted to share it with all of you.
Are there things you enjoy doing for others, given your current abilities with IPF? If so, please share … the more we can do for others, the more joy we can all find in our lives despite living with this disease.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.