How Hobbies Can Help Patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis

How Hobbies Can Help Patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis
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Most of the conversations in the Pulmonary Fibrosis News Forums are about the physical and medical aspects of living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). But occasionally we steer off-topic and talk about who we are as people first and patients second. We talk about our families, travel plans, and hobbies. Many forums members have a new hobby. Others have returned to one they had neglected before getting sick.

As a lover of all things “do-it-yourself,” there are few activities that bring me greater joy than spending a day in my craft room making cards or scrapbooking. My mind focuses on the task at hand, and I don’t worry about other things. It’s one of the health benefits of a creative hobby.

I recently talked about this with my rheumatologist during a follow-up for my lung transplant evaluation. Since my diagnosis, I’ve struggled with learning to slow down and not be as heavily involved in volunteer and social roles. I am a classic overachiever and want my hands in everything. I crave learning and describe myself as an “information junkie.” But sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me, and I take on more than I can handle. My rheumatologist says this is one of the worst things we can do for our minds and bodies, IPF or not.

I am grateful for my healthcare specialists, but this physician is particularly skilled. As an internal medicine specialist, she believes in a physiological mind-body connection and challenges me to find ways to slow down my mind. She says that when our brains are relaxed, our bodies fare better. That’s not always easy when living with a life-threatening lung disease.

During my last visit, she and I talked about my crafting hobby. She believes in the benefit of hobbies for mental health, and she challenged me to carve out windows of time in my weekly schedule to craft. She reminded me that I wouldn’t cancel a chiropractor appointment if my body was in pain, so why wouldn’t I prioritize something that will help my mind feel better.

In addition to helping me focus, the following are other ways crafting is therapeutic:

  • Improves physical stamina: As I continue to recover from almost three months of illnesses, I am noticing a decline in my physical abilities. Sitting up without support is uncomfortable, and my arms and legs are significantly weaker. Using a supportive chair that forces better posture while crafting is helping me regain core muscle strength.
  • Provides additional income: I love it when friends order custom cards from me, and I can create something unique for them. The extra funds I earn are a bonus.
  • Opportunities to socialize: I’ve always been energized by time and conversation with like-minded people. When I spend time with my crafting friends, it reminds me that I am known for something outside of IPF. Because it doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion, it’s a hobby that I can participate in even when I am not feeling my best.
  • Gives me a sense of accomplishment: It can be hard to finish tasks when living with IPF because of physical and mental fatigue. Crafting and completing a small item leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment.

What hobbies help you cope with IPF/PF? How are they helpful to you? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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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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6 comments

  1. I love your post. My husband was diagnosed in April of 19 but now they are saying they are not sure as he is doing so well and he has some findings of hypersensitivity pnumonitis and some of IPF but he’s young (54).lol they need to meet you..
    So we go every 3 months for function test and wait for now. I pray for you and your family. You make the difference we all want to make. Thank you for that.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns and for your kind words! I’m sorry to hear your husband is dealing with this disease too – it can sure be relentless and never discriminates by age. Some people (even professionals) have argued that I may not have “IPF” but rather auto-immune related PF, but all my autoimmune panels/bloodwork aren’t indicative of a problem. So, until I develop something auto-immune related, no one has any other answers but IPF. It is a hard battle I’m working through! All that said, I’m really glad your husband isn’t plagued by the awful symptoms of this disease – I will keep my fingers crossed that is the case for him for a long time. Thank you again for your kind words, they made my day 🙂
      Charlene.

  2. Lydia says:

    I started knitting and sewing. Before IPF I wouldn’t have had patience for these hobbies but now I’m benefiting from the slower pace. It clears my mind and helps me control my “anxious “ breathing. It feels good to have a planned activity that provides a sense of accomplishment.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Lydia,

      Thank you so much for reading my column and reaching out via the comments. I hoped this would be a topic that many of us could resonate with. I am glad you have found knitting and sewing to keep your mind busy, that is important. I agree with the sense of accomplishment, it feels good doesn’t it? Glad you’ve found some quiet hobbies to help you cope with IPF. Thanks for sharing!
      Charlene.

  3. Holly Patient says:

    Hi, Charlene,
    I am also rediscovering the joys of hobbies as a newly retired and now post-transplant person. I agree that being creative and producing something that gives you and others pleasure is important. That’s probably true for everyone, but especially so for those of us with restricted activities and energy. I spent much of the fall sewing tops for friends and family members–a simple pattern which seemed flattering to most figures, using fun fabrics. I also started watercolors, taking a couple of one-day classes to get me back into it after many years of “not having time.” My lack of talent does not hold me back! I can still learn and improve. I would love to see your cards and artwork, if you have it anywhere on social media.
    Holly

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. As always, it is wonderful to hear from you! I love that you’re re-discovering creativity, and couldn’t agree more how beneficial it is for those of us with restricted activities and energy. Sewing and doing watercolours sounds so fun — maybe some day you could teach me! Having some time for creative outlets now (I also “never had the time”) has been one of the gifts from IPF that I try to be thankful for as it has become very therapeutic for me. I’ll get my card link to Christy for you 🙂
      Char.

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