At some point in our lives, we’re all likely to face difficult decisions. They will force us to weigh out all the options, considering not only the pros and cons of each decision, but also the overall impact on our lives. Before I became sick with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a life-threatening lung disease, I used to look at decisions as opportunities for growth or change and a chance to do something different. Now, I’m often overwhelmed by difficult decisions because I have to consider their impact on my health.
One of the hardest decisions I remember making was which university I would attend at the conclusion of secondary school. I was plagued by the difficulty of the decision; however, now that I am living with a chronic illness, I wish this was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make. I had very few factors to consider. The most important one was the ranking of the program I was accepted to. Now, I would also have to consider the city and the access to quality hospitals and healthcare, as my lungs continue to decline due to IPF.
I have shared in previous columns how much I love the ocean and being around large bodies of water. I find a sense of peace and a calmness in this setting that I’ve not been able to get anywhere else. Knowing the prognosis of IPF, I wish I could live by the ocean and experience this peace every day, but I could only afford to live on the east coast of Canada. The west coast, while beautiful, has some of the most expensive real estate in the country. That said, the east coast doesn’t have access to the healthcare and transplant center I will need as my disease worsens, so I can’t pursue this dream. Despite the benefit this move would have on my mental health, my physical health would suffer.
Unfortunately, I am now facing another difficult decision, and its impact on my health is at the forefront of my thoughts. In the PF News forums, we talk a lot about the difficulty of working while living with IPF. While working full-time has become physically exhausting for me, there have been more instances than I’d like to admit when my mental health was also affected, and I don’t think I can let it keep happening.
Just recently, as a result of something that happened at work, I had three nights when I was not able to sleep well. My mind was racing and I was upset. The inability to sleep jeopardized my ability to physically function during the day, and that compromised my health.
I’d argue that the decision to seek employment elsewhere is easier for someone without a chronic illness than for me, as a patient with IPF. Currently, I have a permanent position with benefits, vacation time, and flexibility to accommodate my illness. I am very lucky to be employed by an understanding agency; however, the impact one individual is having on me is becoming too daunting to deal with, and I am considering a career change. Once again, this decision is complicated by my lung disease and healthcare needs.
When it comes to a career shift, I find myself weighing the pros and cons. (It helps to write those out.) I cannot keep letting my mental health, and subsequently my physical health, be impacted by this person. With any career change, however, there is the risk that it might not work out, and the security of the paid vacation time, flexibility, and benefits could be jeopardized. I don’t want my disease to dictate my decisions, but the reality is that I have to think about my healthcare needs when considering such a drastic shift.
One of the invisible impacts of IPF is the mental fatigue patients face, so considering all the options of this decision has been tiring me out these past few weeks. One part of me believes this decision is the right thing to do because I need to prioritize my mental health, whereas another side of me thinks I am giving this individual too much power to impact me and that I shouldn’t jeopardize my permanent position and benefits because of them.
Have you had to make any difficult decisions where your health needs were heavily factored into the outcome?
If so, do you have any tips to share?
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.