Why Doing Things for Others Feels Good as a Patient with PF

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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As a patient living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), it is inevitable that my dependency on others will increase as my disease worsens. This is something I have had to come to terms with since being diagnosed nearly two years ago. Since then, my independence has been threatened on many occasions as this disease causes major fluctuations in what I can and can’t physically do on my own.

As a young adult living with IPF, the threat of losing my independence to this disease can quickly become overwhelming when I spend time thinking about it. I’ve had to ask people for help completing tasks that I could previously do on my own. It’s hard to accept as I used to be extremely independent.

Growing up I enjoyed doing things for others simply because it made them happy. I never had to do something “in exchange” for what someone did for me, even though I know healthy friendships or relationships are reciprocal like this naturally. Since my IPF diagnosis I still enjoy doing things for others to make them happy, and sometimes I also feel it necessary to do things for the people who help me so often.

Regardless of why you may be doing something for others, being able to offer assistance to someone in any capacity feels good. I believe this is especially true for patients living with IPF, or at least this is true for me. It feels good to be able to do things for others, especially since I’m usually the one needing others to help me. Following are some of my reasons why it can feel good to do things for others:

  • It makes me feel as though I can “give back.” While my friends and family don’t expect this when they help me with tasks, sometimes it can feel as though the equilibrium of reciprocal support is off-balance. It often feels like I take more than I give, so when I can do something for others, it brings that equilibrium a bit more into balance.
  • It enables a sense of normalcy versus life with a chronic illness. I believe that as human beings most of us have an innate desire to help and support others. When living with a life-threatening illness such as IPF, it often feels as though normal life no longer exists due to the constant threat to our health and having to cancel or reschedule plans. Offering to do something for others helps enable a feeling of normalcy in our lives.
  • It fosters feelings of independence. Sometimes it can feel as though our “can’t-do” list far exceeds our “can-do” list. When my can’t-do list is longer, my independence feels threatened by my disease. When I can do something for others, especially if it makes them happy or their life a little easier, I add this with pride to my “can-do” list. The longer that list is, the more independent and capable I feel.
  • Unexpected surprises can result. I’m not suggesting that I do things for others for my own gain, however, not only does it make me feel good, but also surprises can happen. For example, I recently had a friend’s family members from another province stay with me. They were visiting for a wedding. They were lovely and we got along very well, and in getting to know them, they shared a story that renewed so much hope for me. They knew someone who was 32, living with IPF, and who’d had a double lung transplant over 10 years ago! She’s doing exceptionally well. Those immersed in the transplant world will know that hitting 10 years post-double lung transplant is considered an important milestone. Hearing this young woman’s story from my friend’s relatives was exactly what I needed to help restore my hope for living a long time with this disease. It was an unexpected gift I received from helping them.

Does doing things for others make you feel good despite living with IPF/PF? Join this discussion in our PF forums! 


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


1 round seat allotment result avatar

1 round seat allotment result

hi!,I really like your writing very so much! proportion we communicate more approximately your post on AOL?

I need a specialist on this space to solve my problem. Maybe
that is you! Taking a look forward to look you.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Blair,

Thank you for reading my columns and contributing your comments back. I'm always happy to chat with people about my columns and or topics they would find helpful pertaining to PF/IPF. I'm not sure what your question is about AOL? Can you rephrase it for me or provide clarification?

I am not a specialist by any means, and do not have any type of medical degree. I am a patient living with pulmonary fibrosis, so I base my articles on my experience as a patient. Not sure if I could be of help for you based on that?


Lorena McManus avatar

Lorena McManus

Great article Charlene. You hit on part of my philosophy for living with ILD and a couple of other chronic diseases. Giving back makes us also feel engaged with the world and reinforces our value to people and the world. Thank you Charlene and all the best. Lorena

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Lorena,

Thank you so much for reading my column and for connecting via the comments... I always love hearing from others who find my columns beneficial. I'm glad you could relate to it as well. Living with any chronic illness, including an ILD is incredibly frustrating but I sure agree with you, that giving back seems to re-fill our purpose. Not being the one who 'takes' all the time in a relationship, and being able to give does feel good. Unfortunately I am working on finding more of a balance between giving and taking right now and just wrote a Pulmonary Fibrosis News forum post about this actually. It is all a learning curve, isn't it?

Wishing you all the best!


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