With the exception of being on antibiotics again for a bacterial infection that tried to start in my ears, nose, and throat, I am feeling pretty well these days. I am tired, but that is to be expected, and most of my harder days now are from the emotional impact of living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), not the physical impact. This is a welcomed change, but navigating the emotional turmoil that comes with living with a life-threatening disease is hard work as well.
Lately, I have been noticing things others do more frequently, both good and bad, including healthy and unhealthy habits. I am not sure why I am so observant of others lately, but I am. When I notice someone doing something that is unhealthy, I find myself thinking about what I might say to them. I never would speak up, because each person is entitled to his or her own choices and actions. But I think about what I might say if I were to speak up. More specifically, I have been thinking about what I would want to tell people who have healthy lungs, or what I wish they knew.
The other night, I was out with my dog when another couple walked past with a beautiful puppy that my dog would have loved to play with. I quickly noticed that one of the two people walking this dog had a lit cigarette. When he asked if my dog was friendly, indicating that he was going to bring the puppy over so they could play, I had to share the uncomfortable truth that I cannot be anywhere near cigarette smoke. He seemed a little bit taken aback, but then nodded and pulled his dog away and kept walking.
I wish this person knew how uncomfortable it was for me to say that to him, because I know smoking is his own personal choice and it is not my right to judge or to have an opinion of others’ choices. But I wish he also knew how hard it is for me to accept that I have a fatal lung disease and I have never smoked a day in my life.
With the weather turning to fall in Southwestern Ontario, construction on many roads in the city where I live continues. I drive past construction zones every time I am out, and the other morning I went by a classic construction site: men standing in bright orange vests, covered in white dust or dirt while leaning over some big metal machine that is vibrating ferociously as it digs into the concrete.
What I noticed was that the two men holding the machine were not wearing masks. I am confident that this would violate some sort of health and safety policy, but it was not my place to step in and comment on that because I know nothing about construction work. But I wish they knew just how much damage toxic chemicals and environmental exposures and hazards can cause to their lungs.
I don’t know whether the particles they were breathing would cause permanent damage to their lungs, but I would be more inclined to err on the side of caution and wear a mask. I wish they knew how important it is to protect their lungs by doing something as simple as wearing a mask during exposure to something potentially hazardous to the respiratory system.
Recently, while I was waiting to be taken in for an appointment, I noticed two young girls talking about their weekend plans. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but we were in such close proximity I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Presuming they were college-age students, most of their weekend plans included partying and going out with friends. One of them then commented on how she “probably should exercise at some point,” and then added that she likely wouldn’t because of her party plans.
I wish she knew how lucky she is to be able to have the option to exercise freely, breathe in fresh air, and lead a healthy lifestyle. I miss running and swimming with every ounce of my being, and I wish she knew how important exercise is for her respiratory health.
There are so many other things I also wish people with healthy lungs knew. But mainly, my wish for those who do not have respiratory conditions is simple: I wish and hope and pray that you never take your healthy lungs for granted.
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.