I try to practice gratitude every day. The word “practice” is appropriate. Viewing daily trials through a lens of gratitude did not come to me by instinct or inheritance. I started doing it several years ago to try and force myself out of a funk.
Writing down something that I am grateful for each day changed how I experience the world. I notice good things more often than I dwell on bad ones. A grateful mindset is an excellent buffer for hardship and negativity. It’s not perfect — OK, it doesn’t work in traffic — but it is habitual, and it has helped me press through the toughest events of my life these past few years.
During this season when people typically celebrate their blessings, I started to probe for something deeper. And I had this disgusting thought: I am grateful for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). What the heck? OK, maybe that isn’t quite right, but that was how the thought first formulated in my mind.
This cruel disease caused so much pain and suffering for my mom, my family, and me. It has caused pain and suffering for people who are now my friends. It’s terrifying and unfair. It is not something for which to be thankful. And yet, there I was, walking my dog on a beautiful fall day and feeling grateful for it.
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I’m not grateful for the disease itself. Nor the suffering and pain. I would rather that my mom hadn’t suffered through advanced-stage IPF, the procedures and pain, the fear and uncertainty, and the exhaustion. But I am grateful for many things that I can tie directly to my mom’s IPF and lung transplant.
The most obvious is her life. I am grateful that I got to send my mom a birthday card last week. I am grateful that we will spend Christmas together as a family, celebrating instead of mourning. I am grateful to her donor for giving us that gift. And to the donor’s family for making the final call in their moment of heartbreak. This is a tough season to go through with grief, and I think about them all the time.
I am also grateful for moments of vulnerability, and the connection that I got to share with my mom in the hospital. We healed old wounds. Our relationship changed and strengthened. We understand each other better.
I am grateful for the many interactions with people since my mom was hospitalized. I had moments of surrender with friends and family. I met people who saw me in the middle of a crisis and loved me anyway. I formed relationships that have changed my life.
I am in awe of and thankful for every person who cared for my mom while she was in the hospital. Witnessing the selfless commitment of each nurse, doctor, therapist, and aide restored my faith in humanity. Some of those people became friends for life.
I am grateful for the inner strength that I discovered when IPF put my mom in the ICU. I am rebuilding myself after a long time of feeling like I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. I needed this strength to find myself again, and it wouldn’t have come without IPF. I started a business this year — something I’d wanted to do for 10 years but was too afraid of failure. I couldn’t have done it without mentorship from a friend I made because of IPF.
I am also grateful for the opportunity to write about this experience, and for the people who read my columns. My writing degree was a source of resentment until I had this column to prove that earning it wasn’t for nothing.
IPF almost took my mom away from me. I will never be grateful for that. But for many things connected to our IPF story, I feel very fortunate indeed. This year has been a test of will, faith, and resilience, and I am emerging from it a different person. I am grateful for the new me, and the relationships that I have formed and strengthened while we fought IPF.
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.