30 Days of PF: My Diagnosis Brought Peace of Mind
Day 8 of 30
This is Latoya Hawkins’ story:
After years of a cough that just would not go away, I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in December 2019. I was prescribed oxygen at that time, which made my disability more visible.
Although I had to wear an obvious sign of my disability, I felt liberated! For years, my symptoms had gone undiagnosed. What I thought was the flu, asthma, thyroid problems, and even cancer was now confirmed as PF. I finally felt peace of mind.
Life did indeed change but, for me, it was more of a relief. My oxygen tank was literally and figuratively a “breath of fresh air.” With the pandemic, life has become easier. I can have most of my necessities delivered to my door or I can wait outside the store for curbside pickup. My employer also has allowed working from home with extensions for medical reasons.
I live in a small studio house with parking just feet from my door. My place is easy to clean and the oxygen tubing can go anywhere in that small space. My yard is very small so cutting the grass — with frequent rest breaks I might add — feels like a feat that I can conquer. Yes, I can pay someone or ask for help but doing it myself gives me a great sense of independence!
There are drawbacks too, as I now feel like I can’t go on vacation like I used to do. Even once the pandemic is over, my oxygen levels will really slow me down and I feel anxiety about straying too far from home. This summer, a routine procedure ended with me in the intensive care unit for two weeks. With the help of my family and the care team at the hospital, I was discharged from the ICU. But I have noticed that I now require more oxygen than before.
To cope, since I’m the only person I know with this disease in real life, I’ve joined PF groups on Facebook. Having this virtual community makes me not feel so alone. This is a progressive disease, yet I continue to push through with each breath!
Pulmonary Fibrosis News’ 30 Days of PF campaign will publish one story per day for PF Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPF, or read the full series.