Acceptance Is Part of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Journey

Acceptance Is Part of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Journey

I vividly remember being told I had something called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). That day and conversation will be forever etched in my mind. I looked at the specialist revealing the news and said to him, “OK. What’s that?” Like most people, I’d never heard of this disease before it crept into my life and made its presence fiercely known.

That day was a little over three years ago. And I am still learning what it takes to live with a life-threatening lung condition.

The gamut of emotions I felt following my diagnosis was wide. I was caught between feeling relief that I finally had some answers to my unusual symptoms and extreme sadness and anger that my lungs weren’t healthy at only 28 years old. I feared sharing this news with my friends and family. It was almost as if I thought the diagnosis was my fault. I think that it’s important to let yourself feel the various emotions, work through each one, and then allow acceptance into your life.

I could deny the reality that my lungs will inevitably fail. I could fight the exhaustion, breathlessness, and limitations. However, battling against my disease leaves me feeling frustrated, angry, and defeated. Sadly, I know this because I’ve tried. I’ve often lost the struggle when trying to push through my symptoms. I’ve landed in the hospital or ended up in bed for days. In hindsight, if I had been better at accepting my limitations and finding a balance between completing tasks and resting, I would have been more successful at getting things done. However, I’ve learned that acceptance is an ongoing process and takes time to master.

It’s easier to state the importance of learning acceptance than it is to practice it. However, when we can get to a place of accepting our lung disease, our mental health will improve, as will our relationships. We will find inner peace.

Following are tips that helped me to accept my lung disease and current limitations:

  • Look for alternatives: Accepting that I can’t do something that other young adults can has been the hardest part of living with IPF. I’ve never wanted to be different from my peers. The things they can do with ease have become difficult for me. I used to try to push through the symptoms of IPF to keep up, but I can no longer do that. Instead, I accept what I can’t do and look for alternative ways to reciprocate friends for their help.
  • Let it go: Pushing through my symptoms and resisting my limitations causes me physical pain and mental anguish as well. I realize that there is no point in investing emotional energy in thinking about what I wish I could do. Letting go of what I can’t do and reframing what I can still do benefits my mental health.
  • Ask for help: As a society, I believe we glorify independence. While I pride myself in being independent, I admit guilt in this worship of self-sufficiency. There is no shame in asking for help. Think of what you’d be willing to do for loved ones if they asked. I am sure many of our friends and family members would be happy to return the favor.
  • Tell people about IPF: I’ve learned the hard way that withholding information from those around you sets everyone up for failure. When people know about your lung condition, and you’re upfront about what you can and cannot do, expectations remain realistic. As difficult as it is to be open, I believe transparency is best.
  • Treat yourself: Living with a lung disease is hard, both physically and emotionally. On the days you’re struggling with tasks, give yourself a break and treat yourself to something you enjoy.

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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.

Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!
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Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!

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