I Was a Different Person Before and After My IPF Diagnosis

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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People who endure a traumatic experience often divide their lives into before and after the trauma.

I’ve heard this is true of those who survive a transplant in the lung disease community. Pre-transplant life is very different than post-operative life.

I anticipate this will be true for me post transplant; it is one of many considerations of a life-altering surgery. However, I recently realized that my idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) has also forced me into two different worlds.

My life as a careless and free-spirited young adult came to a halt in April 2016 when I was diagnosed with IPF. I really liked my life prior to diagnosis: I was going places, and I enjoyed the freedom of not being chronically ill.

While I’m thankful for the life I have and for the unexpected gifts IPF has given me, I still grieve the person I was before I developed chronic lung disease.

The late Pulmonary Fibrosis News columnist Kim Frederickson wrote, “Grief is the answer to processing loss, pain and disappointment” in a column titled “Grief Can Be a Friend on this PF Journey.”

Tremendous pain comes from grief, but a great deal of growth and processing is associated with it, too. That’s what I am doing now: processing what I’ve lost due to IPF, and assessing what I have now.

Sometimes, the best way to process the pain of grief is to face what you’ve lost head on. Talk about the grief, share your pain with others, and state how much it sucks. Don’t get stuck in that loss, but rather focus on what you currently have as a result of that before-and-after division.

I’ll never be the same person I was before IPF interfered with my life, but I would not have many of my current skills, strengths, and supports without IPF.

I recently completed an exercise that compared my current self to the person I was before my IPF diagnosis, including my hobbies, skills, and ways in which I navigate life. I want to share that comparison and invite you to do the same exercise.

I found this exercise very invigorating, though I had expected the opposite effect.

Before my IPF diagnosis

I knew little about chronic illness before my IPF diagnosis. I didn’t know what the chronically ill endured, including the constant threat of contracting a virus or bacterial infection. I had minimal knowledge of the immune system or how destructive germ exposure could be to one’s overall health.

I was a reactive planner, and waited until the last minute to finish tasks. I carelessly planned trips without much preparation. I showed little emotion and focused on solving problems by doing whatever was necessary.

Prior to my IPF diagnosis, I was blissfully unaware of the effects of your diet. For instance, I didn’t know that ingredients such as sugar, refined carbs, and alcohol cause inflammation in the body, which can make you feel unwell.

All my hobbies were active, including various sports. I never had a chance to rest my body or my mind, as I was always on the move. I didn’t have time to learn new skills, either.

After my IPF diagnosis

Some may now call me a “germophobe,” but this is learned behavior. I fell seriously ill last year after a respiratory infection spiraled out of control. I know how to strengthen the immune system and avoid germs wherever possible.

I am a proactive planner, preparing for deadlines or trips well in advance.

Many will attest that I am far more emotional than I ever used to be (blame the steroid side effects) when solving a problem, and I tire easily.

I am forever mindful of what I eat. I spend more time ordering groceries online or sending someone out for me so I have regular, fresh produce in the house as opposed to anything with preservatives.

I also spend a lot more time doing quiet hobbies that allow me to slow my mind and focus only on the task at hand. I am able and willing to learn new skills since my IPF diagnosis.

How have you changed since your IPF diagnosis?


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.


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