Pulmonary Fibrosis Alters the Trajectory of Our Lives
Many significant milestones in life occur during young adulthood. Some may buy their first home, get married, and start a family, which is a typical trajectory. Unfortunately, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a progressive and fatal lung disease, doesn’t care about typical trajectories. It unapologetically interferes with the lives of patients who have it.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to prioritize travel when I became an adult. I didn’t give a lot of thought to whether I would do it alone or with a spouse, because ultimately it didn’t matter to me. I was OK going on my own or sharing travel experiences with a partner. I focused on my dream of traveling throughout my teenage years and set out on my first overseas adventure in my early 20s.
I was given an incredible opportunity to study overseas, which further intensified my love of travel. Ironically, it was during a trip when I became symptomatic with an interstitial lung disease in 2015. The following year, I was diagnosed with IPF. But despite IPF, I have continued traveling with adequate preparations in place.
Now that I’m in my early 30s, travel is still a priority. However, I acknowledge that I’m in the period of adulthood when other milestones are “supposed” to have occurred. I thought about this as I prepared for a close friend’s wedding recently.
I have been privileged to join many of my friends in their weddings. I’ve also been able to watch them experience pregnancy, and I’ve gotten to hold their beautiful children.
I’m not married and don’t have kids, which doesn’t bother me. But my heart aches for fellow patients who desperately want to get married and have kids, but their disease prevents them from doing so.
This is just one reason why IPF is so cruel: It prevents us from achieving the same goals or reaching the same milestones that our peers do, either due to physical limitations like shortness of breath, supplemental oxygen, or fatigue, or the mental and emotional toll of just fighting to survive.
Many patients invest their already limited energy in trying to outlive the prognosis given to us; we often don’t have the time or the energy to compare what others have with our own situations. This can be a blessing in disguise, as comparisons are often the thief of joy. However, sometimes reality hits and makes us realize that our chronic illness has altered the typical trajectory of our lives.
While not always easy, I try to focus on the opportunities that IPF has presented me rather than on the things I don’t have. I try to remain grateful because the vulnerability of sharing my story has led to many amazing connections, opportunities, and friendships I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I’m proud to say that I’m still prioritizing travel, but I didn’t prioritize other milestones in my life, such as marriage and children, because of my IPF diagnosis. I’m OK with this, but I know others aren’t.
To my fellow IPF patients: Are there milestones or goals that haven’t happened because of your diagnosis, either intentionally or unintentionally? If so, how do you cope? Please share in the comments below.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.