Inspired by an article written by a wonderful writer, and talented individual who I’m lucky enough to call a friend, I have decided use this post and take a look back at what my life was like a year ago, before IPF. This feels significant in a few different ways, one of the main ones being that I am approaching the year mark since I crossed off an item on my bucket list that I had always wanted to do.
Now, a year later and having a diagnosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), I am lucky to have done it last year at this time because it would not be possible to do it now with the condition of my lungs. A year ago on November 9, I climbed to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. While faced with some adversity then in several forms: physical, financial and emotional, it certainly feels minimal to what would have to faced if I wanted to try climbing the bridge again this year on my return to Australia next week.
I remember that day as clear as can be, November 9 2015. It was one of the hottest days we had experienced during my five-day stay in Sydney, and as my two friends and I walked to the base of the bridge where you show your ticket and register for your climb time, the temperature gauge was rising quickly to an anticipated peak temperature of 37 degrees. I remember feeling a little bit nervous because of my physical abilities at the time, but was told by my friends that this climb really wasn’t strenuous and that the 360 degree views at the top were worth it, so I paid the money and in I went.
My friends didn’t climb with me as it is quite expensive and they had both done it before. As my climbing group suited up, and went through the indoor simulator to demonstrate that we were comfortable climbing up and down vertical ladders and in through tight spaces, my mind was put at ease because physically I knew this wouldn’t be too difficult. Next they demonstrated to us how we would be attached to the bridge at all times by a little hook that moved a long a wire to the right of us, and we were shown how to move it as we walked and climbed. I knew this would be a breeze, and that it would be a lot of fun!
To my surprise, once we set foot outside the building and onto the bridge, the vertical ladders were actually not the challenge at all, it was the gradual incline on the bridge that gave me a little bit of trouble respiratory-wise. I remember thinking to myself “come on, this shouldn’t be the hard part of the climb”… and “why can’t I breathe very well”. However, our climb leader stopped the whole group every 10 minutes or so to give us a rest as well as to point out some historic sites throughout Sydney Harbor. The view of the Opera House was absolutely stunning, as were the Blue Mountains of New South Wales to the west of Sydney, and I particularly loved the view towards Manly beach with miles and miles of open ocean and nothing but aquamarine blue.
Before IPF: On top of the world in Sydney
At the top of the bridge, we could have our photo taken and a video made and so I stood suspended over 1,600 ft in the air, over 8 lanes of traffic and did a shout out to my nephews before climbing back down the other side. Probably to the average person, this may seem insignificant but for some reason there have always been three things in Australia that I wanted to experience, and I am not entirely sure why, but those things on my bucket list were: The Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road, the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. I’ve been able to see all these things in person, but the bridge just holds such special memories for me… I just never get tired of looking at it and admiring its beauty, especially in the dark as the lights of the Sydney harbor light it up in all different colors but the most radiant purples, blues and greens.
It brings a lot of mixed emotions to think that the day I climbed the bridge and experienced the views from the top is already approaching a year ago, and to think about how much has changed is quite overwhelming at times. I am lucky to be returning to Australia this week, and will admire the bridge from the ground this time, probably while on oxygen. Like most people with IPF, you learn to cherish the experiences you were once able to do but no longer can due to physical limitations.
Perhaps some of the emotion associated with climbing the bridge already a year ago is remembering the feelings that I had at the top of that bridge. Last year at this time I was working through a lot of adversity, transition(s) and challenges that had frustratingly arisen, and I think, subconsciously, my climb represented overcoming a lot of the diffniclties that life threw at me last year. Perhaps the emotion now is not having something as significant to represent overcoming the huge obstacles ahead of me in the face-off against IPF,
For anyone who may wish to answer, I’m curious: how to do cope with the anniversary of significant life events that have passed before your life with IPF/symptoms of IPF? Do they bring sadness, happiness, or neither?
Thanks for reading!
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