Grateful for My Cognitive Abilities, Despite Failing Lungs
Many chronic illness patients experience brain fog. Those living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a progressive and life-threatening lung condition, are no exception. Due to being chronically under-oxygenated, especially as the disease progresses, many IPF patients find their brain fog prohibitive to important aspects of their life, such as excelling in their careers or managing medications.
I hadn’t been diagnosed with IPF very long when I noticed a friend and fellow patient’s column on brain fog. At that time, I was still in denial that my lungs were plagued by this disease, and wrongfully assumed that if someone was experiencing brain fog, their disease progression must be severe. I simply didn’t realize how frequently this unpleasant side effect occurs.
There is a lot to learn about living with this life-threatening condition, especially when it comes to managing supplemental oxygen, which can be more difficult with brain fog and fatigue. When I first started using supplemental oxygen, I would often forget small but crucial things pertaining to this important medical device, such as packing extra batteries or ensuring the machine is adequately ventilated. I distinctly remember feeling overwhelmed when I started using oxygen, and while I’ve lived with IPF for years now, the brain fog still interferes with my ability to effectively manage my disease at times.
For those who might not know, IPF progressively hardens a patient’s lungs due to fibrosis development, and breathing becomes impossible, so lung failure is inevitable. This disease has forced me to make a lot of changes to my life that I contested; it’s incredibly difficult to be a young adult who is regularly short of breath and dependent on supplemental oxygen. Despite my lungs failing and the occasional brain fog, I remain grateful for my cognitive abilities.
I was recently invited to be part of a large project with a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of IPF patients. Due to brain fog, I did have concerns about whether I would be able to meet the expectations for this project; however, completing the tasks is still relatively easy for me.
I also recently received a fairly significant promotion at work due in part to my attention to detail and dedication to figuring out effective processes that help our team work more efficiently. In my promotion plan, it was noted that I have identified and closed gaps in our work as well, whether through database changes or process development, both of which are cognition-heavy work. These compliments came as a surprise to me, as I felt as though my efforts at work were no different than my peers. Upon reflection, the compliments mean a great deal to me.
Since my diagnosis, I have occasionally questioned my value as an employee. I never want to be perceived as the “sick” staff member, the cause of extra accommodations, or the staff member whom others have concerns about on a regular basis. Sometimes I worry about having to prove my worth, especially in comparison to my healthy teammates, but I am repeatedly assured this is only a narrative I tell myself and I am valued at my workplace. My employers made that clear following my recent and unexpected promotion.
While IPF is a big part of my life and has taken a lot from me, including many of my physical abilities, it hasn’t taken away everything. While I occasionally struggle with brain fog and forgetfulness, I’m thankful my cognitive abilities remain intact. Specifically, I am grateful for my ability to learn and try new things despite living with this life-threatening lung disease.
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.