Make Time for You During Your Journey

Samuel Kirton avatar

by Samuel Kirton |

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Are there sounds you associate with your happy place? Perhaps it’s a smell. For me, it’s the sound of a metal whisk in a metal bowl, the rhythm of a chef’s knife prepping ingredients, the aroma of a mirepoix as it begins to sweat.

Food is my love language. I’ve always been able to escape to the kitchen and clear my mind by getting creative with cooking. This was true even before I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in January 2017.


Making time for yourself is almost as important as taking your medications as prescribed. Self-care is a modern buzzword that seems to have replaced the idea of self-indulgence. Do what you must to carve out time to take care of yourself. Put it on your calendar, record it in your planner, or write a Post-it note.

I was practicing self-care long before my diagnosis, but I don’t think I realized how important it is to take mental breaks until I was living with IPF. Those mental escapes provide a diversion from my rare disease world.

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About that cooking

My wife, Susan, and I both love to travel and have been very fortunate to explore the globe. We always try to participate in a cooking class wherever we go.

At a class in New Orleans, we learned how to make a proper etouffee. At a class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, we learned how to make a perfect macaron. And at a class aboard a cruise ship, the chef taught us how to prepare a fresh fish dish.

Baking is about precision and discipline in measuring, blending, and timing. Cooking allows more imagination. It’s about understanding the dynamics of the ingredients and how they work together. It requires focus and attention to detail.

Cooking is the perfect opportunity to focus on one thing only: preparing a meal that makes you say, “This is so good.”

A cooking intervention

My journey to diagnosis was relatively short — only about five months. During that time, Susan and I had a long-planned getaway for the week of Christmas and New Year’s. We’d stumbled across the trip earlier in 2016 around Valentine’s Day. My primary care physician encouraged us to go.

Susan and I, accompanied by Susan’s sister, Sandra, flew out of Washington Dulles International Airport on Dec. 24. We ultimately arrived in the village of Plascassier, France, on Dec. 25. It was just the distraction we needed; we didn’t know what lay ahead for us in terms of my health.

Nestled on a hillside in Plascassier is La Pitchoune: the former vacation home of Julia and Paul Child. The new owners had listed it on a vacation rental site. This was a cooking dream come true.

self-care | Pulmonary Fibrosis News | Sam wears a white chef's apron and stands in front of a wall of cooking utensils at Julia Child's home in Plascassier, France.

Sam cooks at La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s former home in Plascassier, France, in 2016. (Photo by Sam Kirton)

This was self-care

For more than a week, we shopped in local markets, struggled with our French while searching for ingredients, and prepared a variety of dishes, many from Julia Child’s cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

My illness, which was not yet diagnosed, didn’t go away; I just didn’t have to think about it. The kitchen was my escape from reality, and being in Julia’s kitchen required my full attention.

‘It’ is important

In self-care, you must define your own “it.” In my case, “it” is cooking. Before my transplant last July, Susan often worried that I overdid it in the kitchen. Cooking was exhausting with IPF, but it was also my happy place.

Dealing with pulmonary fibrosis, or any other rare disease, is a full-time job. Much like any other job, you must take time off to recharge. Cooking is how I recharge and continue to make every breath count.

Do you practice self-care? If you are willing to share your “it” in the comments, I would love to hear about it.

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.


Darlene Cochran avatar

Darlene Cochran

Sam, just love the article! I also enjoyed cooking, but have somehow abandoned it. You are inspiring me to reach out to something I enjoyed and would like to find again. Thanks for the reminder to make every breath count! I think I fell off the track, time to get back on it. I appreciate all that you are doing.

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton


Thanks so much for reading my column and for your comments. I am confident you will pick this up like you never stopped. Food is truly my love language. I think many of the best moments in life are those shared over a good meal.

Sam ...


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