How I’m embracing the journey while living with both PF and aging

How do we react when the person in the mirror looks different?

Ann Reynoso avatar

by Ann Reynoso |

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“Who is this woman?” I wonder as I look at a recent photo of myself. I hardly recognize the person looking back at me. Her face has changed.

I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror lately. I’ve been too self-conscious. What happened to that vibrant and bright young lady I once was? At 57, my face seems old and worn.

I wish these age spots weren’t visible. Age spots, common in adults older than 50, are a collection of pigments caused by exposure to the sun, although they can also result from bruising that leaves blood pigment behind.

My nasal cannula, which I need because of pulmonary fibrosis (PF), rubs against my face, making my age spots seem darker. A standard nasal cannula consists of lightweight plastic tubing that is inserted just inside one’s nostrils. The cannula leaves indentations on my cheeks, marking the face of someone who constantly relies on oxygen, but I’d feel naked if I didn’t see and feel my nasal cannula against my skin.

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Emotional Ghosts Continue to Haunt Me

I’ve never paid much attention to my age, but lately, it seems to press on me. In my mind, I don’t feel as old as I am, but my body begs to differ. I can see and feel the damage that PF has done to my body and my health.

I’m faced with several simultaneous illnesses: In addition to PF, I have rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. My lungs bear the brunt of the burden, while the other conditions fall into line. Aging can be a smooth transition, but with PF, it comes with complications. I’m reminded every day of how PF puts immense stress on my body.

Processing life’s changes

A 57-year-old woman wearing an oxygen cannula takes a close-up selfie in her home.

Who is this PF warrior? columnist Ann Reynoso asks. (Photo by Ann Reynoso)

All of this is a blunt reminder of the toll chronic illness can take on a person, not only physically, but also emotionally. Chronic illnesses are conditions that last for a year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit daily activities. At times, these physical changes can feel like betrayal. The external signs of aging are now entangled with the internal battles of managing multiple health conditions. Each wrinkle, each age spot, and each indentation from the cannula is a testament to the ongoing struggle and the resilience needed to face each day.

Living with PF and the reality of aging is about more than just managing a disease; it’s about finding a new normal and embracing life’s changes. It’s a constant balancing act of managing symptoms, coping with changes, and finding ways to adapt. It’s about adapting to new limitations, seeking out the joys that are still within reach, and redefining what it means to live fully.

It’s easy to focus on what’s lost — youth, health, the ease of breathing — but focusing on what remains is where true strength lies. The ability to adapt, find purpose, and continue fighting despite the odds is where courage is found. It’s in the small victories of making it through a tough day, the moments of laughter that break through the pain, and the quiet strength that comes from facing each day head-on.

While sometimes I might struggle to recognize the woman staring back at me, I know she is a warrior. She is someone who continues to fight, who carries the weight of her illnesses with grace, and who finds ways to smile and find joy even in the face of adversity.


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

Mary Baker avatar

Mary Baker

Great words of encouragement that could apply to so many with their own unique struggles. I have done what you say and learned to embrace change and find the joy in what I can do with PF. I just graduated to the oxygen club yesterday, but grateful I have it. I shared your story with a friend who is depressed and has a different medical struggle, but these words apply for him as well.

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Nancy Lehman avatar

Nancy Lehman

I, too, have IPF and was diagnosed in 2017. It was slow going at first and I felt good. We moved to a lower elevation in 2019 and the IPF started in 2020. Now I am in one of the final stages. I am sleepy all the time, have chronic coughing and unable to eat much as my throat closes up and I cannot swallow. My face has changed too. I look kinda funny. The nose pieces make my nostrils larger and bug me 24/7. I avoid going out in public most of the time. I do thank our LORD every day for another day, even when I feel terrible.

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Michael Fugler avatar

Michael Fugler

Thank you for sharing your journey
I think your desire to make sure that others on a similar journey do not feel alone Is an important contribution

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Betty Vignali avatar

Betty Vignali

Very encouraging words. I thank you for sharing the tough with all there is still to learn and to do. Each day is a blessing!

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Brenda Colvin avatar

Brenda Colvin

God Bless you Ann for your resilience! What a testimony you are for all of us dealing with this IPF diagnosis. I’ll think of you every time I think I want to complain. Keep up the good fight.

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Sharon Hindman avatar

Sharon Hindman

Thank you for writing how I feel. ❤️

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John Fromularo avatar

John Fromularo

Thank you for sharing your story. I have PF for 4.5 years and age 72. I am beginning to feel the pressure of the disease as it is starting to wear me down. I hope to maintain a good attitude and flight as you have.

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Momcilo Mijatovic avatar

Momcilo Mijatovic

Thank you Ann for posting this online it made my heart flutter and belive it or not it made my day truly inspiring.We are all on this journey together. Hang in there Best wishes from Australia

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Kathryn Maguire avatar

Kathryn Maguire

Thank you for sharing. Recently things have gotten much harder for me, I am depressed I know and am working towards shifting those very difficult feelings of being worthless. It's alot.

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Jan S Rosin avatar

Jan S Rosin

Dear Ann,

Thank you for your inspiring personal statement. I was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease with schleroderma in January 2023 at the age of 72. Luckily I was diagnosed relatively early and I have a great medical team. But I find the diagnosis difficult emotionally. Despite doing everything the doctors recommend and being aggressive about taking pulmonary therapy, I can feel that I am slowly slipping. I decided that I would fight this as hard as possible when I got the diagnosis. But I am learning that is not enough. I live in Texas with a very shaky power grid. I am now living in fear of power outages because of my need to use my oxygenator. Durung the last serious storm in Houston, my husband and I huddled in a hotel with power for several days until our home had power restored. We are strategizing about how to become power self sufficient during all the climate crises that are becoming more common in our state. As you wrote, adaptation is very important. It seems that we all must become survivalists now.

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Joy Barney avatar

Joy Barney

Thank you so much, Ann. This is exactly the boost of positive energy I needed today. Although I try to be positive most days, living with PF and other associated issues leaves me feeling hopeless sometimes. Today was is one of those days. Thank you for helping me feel not so alone and for giving me the perspective to do what we can today for others and for the world.

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Bill Ivey avatar

Bill Ivey

Hi folks. I’ll be 83 Aug 6th so I’ve had a good long live, of course I’m not happy I have IPF. I’m talking entire, one pill a meal, any more and stomach acts up it’s been hard mentally. I hate giving up my workshop, no more bowls or bird houses for Xmas I was diagnosed in march this year; a good friend has had it almost 5 years so we talk a lot. I thought open heart surgery, 6 bypasses, 14 years ago was tough. So what can I do-I pray a lot, walk much less, am tying
Flies for fishing, and watch the tube I have friends with terminal cancer SO, no pit party for me. I’m taking my grandma’s advice, pray, “do what you can where you are with what you have”
So everyone keep up the fight and laugh while still can

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Zo Michael avatar

Zo Michael

Bill you are a walking wonder!! Good for you, I can't think of anyone with a more inspiring story of IDL.
You have demonstrated a good attitude , found new ways to continue to create and
obviously recognize that whatever we are dealing with , there is always someone worse off. The worse thing we can do in my humble opinion is quit trying, quit living and just sit and suck oxygen. Gotta drag that cord around and keep moving.
Having said that we still must recognize we have limits and rest ourselves well when we need it. I grocery shop and attend family get together, 5 grandkids think I'll Wonder Woman..haha. But I am trying everyday to appreciate life!!
God Bless you Bill, keep Rollin buddy.
I am almost 75 and started my ILD journey in 2016 after 2013 ovarian cancer surgery and pericarditis in 2014...the lung issue was discovered 2016...they believe mold was a factor. They first called it Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. Anyway it's been a long journey. Being rather stubborn and VAIN I really fought oxygen use until about 3 years ago. One year ago I was told that I was in last stages...but I know I am not! WE ARE STRONGER THAN WE THINK.
Let's keep up the hope and count on God's grace...

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Ev Alvarez avatar

Ev Alvarez

Ann , I can relate to those feelings. I was diagnosed 13 yrs ago with Familia IPF, 4 siblings and mother with disease. It's not easy to keep a positive attitude when you don't feel like yourself anymore.. I'm 74 and I don't have a problem with age, I'm just very frustrated with constant coughing and shortness of breath! Physically I'm in good condition, the supplemental oxygen helps but not enough, its a tough journey.

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