My Pulmonologist’s Retirement Leaves Me With Mixed Emotions

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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A patient’s relationship with their physician can factor heavily in how the patient views healthcare. A relationship that inspires comfort, confidence, and trust is one to cherish.

My pulmonologist announced recently that he is retiring, and I’m feeling a mixed bag of emotions about the news.

As a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which is considered rare for young adults to have, I’m used to being bounced through physicians. Getting to a diagnosis was a long process because nobody I saw could determine with any certainty what was causing my fatigue, dry cough, and shortness of breath. I saw cardiologists, allergists, pulmonologists, and an immunologist before I was finally diagnosed with IPF in spring of 2016.

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Once I had a name for the cause of my symptoms, my care team widened even further to include a transplant coordinator, thoracic surgeons, pharmacists, social workers, and nurse practitioners, all of whom were dedicated to helping me live with this life-threatening lung disease for as long as possible.

And while everyone was supportive, I credit my pulmonologist the most with helping me to manage this disease. I have so much appreciation for his knowledge, bedside manner, and commitment to his patients, and I would like to share some of the ways he has exceeded expectations in helping me to manage my disease.

He took time for me. It’s not unusual for specialist appointments to run behind schedule. But when my appointment ran behind, it never bothered me because I knew I would be receiving good care. I never felt rushed through my appointments.

He listened to me. Some doctors don’t seem to appreciate it when their patients show them the results of their research. But when I showed my pulmonologist promising data or potential treatment options that I found from the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation and the IPF Foundation, he never dismissed my efforts and appreciated my advocacy.

He supported my need to understanding why I came down with this disease. When I was diagnosed in 2016, my family struggled to understand why I ended up sick with a lung condition because there is no family history of interstitial lung diseases. I obsessively tried to find a cause for my IPF after I learned of my diagnosis, and my pulmonologist was willing to listen to my thoughts about what might have caused this disease.

He encouraged me to enjoy my life. Early on, I vowed my disease wouldn’t keep me from doing the things I love to do, like traveling, and I credit my pulmonologist with encouraging that attitude. He has always encouraged me to “live with” this disease and focus getting the most out of my life.

As a writer for BioNews, I am privileged to work with fellow rare disease patients, and as a moderator on the PF News Forums, I’ve learned of some patients’ difficult experiences with their doctors. I consider myself lucky to have had such a positive and trusting relationship with my pulmonologist over the years, and while I’m excited about the news of his retirement, I am also sad and anxious. I will miss him deeply.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

Comments

Kes avatar

Kes

Hi Charlene,
A fellow 30-something living with ILD/IPF here! Just writing to say your column has really helped me through some dark days. I was diagnosed in early 2020, but had been showing symptoms since 2016. The Pulmonologist who helped me out--the first medical professional to do so--is retiring this month, too. It's left me super anxious as I'm now between specialists. I don't know what to expect next.
Your take on a similar occurrence is actually a huge relief. It's a good reminder that it's not the end of the world when a trusted doctor moves on ... even if it feel like it.
Thanks for always sharing your thoughts and experiences,
Kes

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Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience, Kes! It is anxiety-provoking I find to think of the doctor who's been with us for so long, retiring. What gets me is the worry about having to "start my story over", but the doctor assured me I won't have to do this. I hope you have a good experience with your physician transition! Take care,
Char.

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