Choosing to Let Things Go Since My IPF Diagnosis

Choosing to Let Things Go Since My IPF Diagnosis

younger than 30

When you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), the choices about how you live your life suddenly becomes illuminated. Since IPF literally steals a patient’s ability to breathe, the prognosis of this disease is not very good, plus there is no cure. As an IPF patient, I am aware that a prognosis for any disease is just a number, yet many patients are often forced to consider how they want to live out their remaining days, months, or years.

In television and movies, we often see characters diagnosed with a terminal illness quitting their job to travel for the rest of their life. It is not usually this simple in real life due to the intensely experienced emotions and necessity of careful consideration when deciding how remaining life should be live. However, there are some things become easier to deal with if you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, one being that it becomes easier to let things go.

Recently, I was watching one of my favorite medical dramas, “Grey’s Anatomy,” on television. An episode was about two interns who had a disagreement over something that was not important, and both of them were holding grudges throughout the entire episode, which spanned four days. I thought to myself, “What a waste of energy and time it is to hold a grudge against someone, especially a friend, over something so unimportant.” In reflection, I wondered if I would have the same reaction if I wasn’t dealing with IPF and didn’t realize intrinsically how short life is. If I was a typical young adult who had never experienced illness, or the threat of having my life extinguished early, would I really believe that holding a grudge is wasted energy?

I can’t answer that question because I see it happen among my peers on a regular basis. These are, of course, the peers who have a much higher chance of living a long and fulfilling life than I do. They are also the peers who just haven’t had to learn how precious life is, and this is by no fault of their own. This lesson comes as a cliché to most people who are not dealing with a life-threatening illness. But, I try to remind them about the importance of living days filled with quality as opposed to quantity. We simply don’t know when our stories will end.

So often, people hang on to something that bothers them, and they don’t make an effort to resolve what is bothersome with the person who they believe caused the issue.

No one really likes dealing with conflict, and even if someone doesn’t, they have two choices that will help them feel better. The first is setting aside their discomfort and dealing with the conflict. The second option is simply choosing to let it go. If something really bothers me and it warrants resolving the conflict with someone, then I make my best effort to do so. However, I also question how important it is for me to invest the energy in resolving something that may not be such a big deal in the grand scheme of life. If I deem it unimportant, I choose to let it go.

When living with a life-threatening illness, determining what is important in the grand scheme of life becomes a lot easier to do. This is one gift of my IPF diagnosis. I have grown to realize what I value is important in my own life, and based on this, I can choose what I invest my energy in and what I don’t.

Other things have become easier since my diagnosis as well, such as learning to walk away from a toxic situation or choosing to give someone a second chance. I believe that we all deserve and need that at some point in our lives.

Are there any other life lessons you’ve learned since your IPF diagnosis?

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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.

14 comments

  1. Hal Siegel says:

    Hi Charlene;
    Once again, I think you’ve hit on a universal truth.
    While you, like many others with ‘terminal’ afflictions, have had it brought to the fore, no one actually knows what their ‘expiration date’ is, when that bus or clot comes along, so wouldn’t it be nice if we all saw things as clearly and released those emotions and obligations that don’t resonate with our purposes and goals? In peace….

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Hal,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns and contributing your comments. You are so right, it sure would be nice if others were able release their emotions, obligations and tasks that don’t resonate or align with their purposes and goals. In a way, I feel like this is a gift that my disease gave me because so many others just can’t get there, and I suppose maybe they will in time and maybe they have no reason to understand this yet? I can only believe that life gives us the lessons we need to learn, when we need them. Since we never know when our expiration date is, like you’ve mentioned, I try so hard to encourage others “not to sweat the small stuff”. However, I know this is easier said than done and I trust people will learn this lesson on their own in due time. Thanks again so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I wish you all the best, and much peace within you..

      Warmly,
      Charlene

  2. Colleen Puniard says:

    I love reading your articles. For one so young you show remarkable equanimity and wisdom. I’m at the other end of the spectrum at least age wise. Probably with equanimity and wisdom too. My age definitely showed when I read the title which I thought presaged a way of avoiding guilt when I let things go. Things like the shopping, the washing, dusting and vacuuming! Ah well….
    What you were really writing about is timely though. We’ downsizing in a big way. Our new house is very small with few cupboards. I’ve been privileged to live in our current dwelling but we need to move. I’m letting go bits of my life I’ve hung on to for years. Not easy. Thank you.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Colleen,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns, and for your kind words… they really touched me and brightened up my day, for which I am so grateful! I think I’m somewhat of an old soul, I’ve always enjoyed connecting with those older than me and hearing about their wisdom, stories and experiences of a life well-lived. I have no doubt that you have equanimity and wisdom as well Colleen 🙂

      It is freeing when we let things go, although it certainly is not an easy task like you mentioned. Best of luck with your move, I hope your hold home leaves you with happy memories, and I wish you nothing but the best ahead for you in your new home.

      Warmest regards,
      Charlene

  3. Rita Vance says:

    Dear Charlene,

    I cannot find the eloquent words just now to express how your beautiful message resonated with me but I can tell you that you are truly wise beyond your years. Maybe you have this horrible diagnosis to be a harbinger of peace and good will to others as we struggle with letting go. A year past my diagnosis and I am just now feeling some peace as urged by my beautiful 30 year daughter who has a form of RA and who I pray will not ever have the IPF diagnosis. She has repeated your message to me several times but through my anger I could not hear. I am listening now.
    Warm hugs and prayers,
    Rita

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Oh Rita, thank you so very much for your kind words and for reading my columns. I am so touched to hear that my message resonated with you, and I hope you found some comfort within my column. I am just coming up to my two year diagnosis date, and it sure has taken me some time to learn this, it is definitely not an easy thing. Many times I still have my moments where I struggle to let things go, but I am actively trying harder to do this in my life now that my breathing is getting more difficult. Isn’t the peace we feel from this freeing? I am so glad you have your daughter to help advocate for the importance of this, as it certainly is difficult. Your daughter sounds like such a blessing, and I wish you both nothing but the very best.

      Sending hugs back to you Rita. Thank you again, your kind words warmed me heart after a tough day.
      Sincerely,
      Charlene

  4. dianne frazier says:

    Is it mandatory to have an open lung biopsy when you have been diagnosed with PF. My Dr, is insisting i have one done so he can determine how to treat me. I have had two heart attacks, a dvt, and renal failure and feel ive been through enough. lung biopsies are not a piece of cake.

    Sincerely,
    Dianne

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Dianne,

      Thank you for reading my columns and for submitting your question, as I know others might have the same one!

      I can’t say for certain, as I am definitely not a Doctor and instead just a patient but I can share with my experience that I did not have a lung biopsy. I also know many others who have shared on social media that their doctors did not require one, as you are right they can be risky and a difficult recovery. Since I know of others who have not needed a lung biopsy (including myself) with their IPF diagnosis, perhaps maybe ask your doctor why he/she feels it absolutely necessary, and ask him/her to outline the risks vs. benefits with you. For example, if your doctor might conclusively find out more about your PF and then generate an effective way to treat or manage it based on the lung biopsy results, perhaps it would be worth it? However, if he or she can find this information via less invasive testing, such as a high-resolution CT scan, maybe advocate for going that route first?

      Usually doctors have reason to request certain tests, however with that said, it is important to advocate for yourself and understand those reasons. Questions that come to mind for me, are things like “what information will the biopsy give you that other tests can’t”, and “how / will the treatment/management of my PF be more effective based on biopsy results?”. I think it really important that we advocate for ourselves as patients. I hope this helps a bit Dianne.

      Warm regards,
      Charlene

  5. Sai Ganesh Murugesan says:

    Hi All,

    This morning I came to know that my father who is 65 years old is diagnosed with IPF. He lives in India in Hyderabad city.

    I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I just found this website. Can someone please help me know what kind of help I can give to my father in India. For example, if there are drugs that I can send to him or get him some therapy or treatments.

    I really appreciate your time and help.

    Thanks,
    Sai Ganesh
    650 649 8335
    [email protected]

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Sai,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns and contributing your comments.

      I am very sorry to hear of your father’s diagnosis, it is such a hard and confusing time when newly diagnosed. I will be thinking of you!

      I am not sure about drug use/availability in India, but does your father have a pulmonologist there? He should with a diagnosis IPF and he or she would be able to advise on what medications are available for him in India. That would likely be your best place to start, as I’m not sure of the rules for sending medication overseas, and you’d want to first ensure it is safe for your father.

      Please feel free to connect any time, and sending best wishes to you and your father.
      Sincerely,
      Vicki

  6. Joan Egger says:

    Hello Although I enjoy reading about all aspects of this disease, I must honestly say, that I am more interested in learning about living with this disease for those older than 60 or 70 years of age. How am I able to access this information? Thanks for the great newsletters.. jme

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Joan,

      Thank you for reading my columns and sharing your thoughts. I always appreciate hearing what would be interesting to readers 🙂

      Do you follow Kim Frederickson’s columns Joan? I don’t know her age, but I know she writes about all aspects of this disease as well and is a bit older than I am. Also, we have a forum specifically for 50+ on the Pulmonary Fibrosis News site, which can be found at: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/forums/forum/ and there are various topics within that forum. Might this be helpful? It is free to sign up and has lots of wonderful people accessing the forums as well. I hope this helps Joan.

      Thanks again for reading my columns.
      Regards,
      Charlene

  7. Fay Russell Lumpkins says:

    Hi Charlene, I am grateful for your column. However, I thought I posted to you but must not have done it correctly. Please write me at my email address. Once I learn how often you post, etc I will be ok. Fay

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Fay,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns and for leaving me a comment! I am grateful to receive a message from you 🙂

      Were you trying to reach me via the forums? If it is easier to email me, please feel free to do so here: [email protected]. I usually post a new column on Pulmonary Fibrosis News on Mondays and Thursdays, although sometimes I can’t meet the publishing deadline just due to things going on. However, most times a new column comes out on Monday and Thursday mornings. I hope this helps!

      Take care,
      Charlene.

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