Reflecting on Another Birthday With IPF
A doctor once told me he wasn’t sure I’d survive until my 30th birthday. If I did, I’d likely be dependent on supplemental oxygen, unlike any other young adult I knew at the time. This week, I turned 34. Reflecting on my nearly six years with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is emotional for me.
After a 13-month journey, I was diagnosed in April 2016, and vividly remember my conversation with the specialist. He wasn’t sure how my disease would progress because I was only 28 at the time, but said the years ahead would be challenging, as the fibrosis in my lungs would cause significant shortness of breath. I was determined to outlive the prognosis for IPF patients.
While that determination has served me well, the last several years have still been tough. Exacerbations and exhaustion have kept me from doing things I love, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional stress. But despite all the difficulties, I am grateful for another year.
I’ve always been reflective, and enjoy looking back on each year and noting what I’ve accomplished. I often write down the highlights around New Year’s and tuck the list into a memory box. Since my IPF diagnosis, I value reflection even more, and birthdays seem like a natural time for it.
Following are some of the things I am most proud of from the past year.
For many people, kayaking is an opportunity to spend leisurely time on the water. For someone with IPF, however, kayaking is a workout, albeit an enjoyable one. It works my lungs and body, which is important because exercise benefits people with lung disease.
This summer, I purchased the kayak I’ve wanted for years, and had a roof rack installed on my SUV to transport it. This was partially because I love kayaking, but also because it’s a safe activity amid COVID-19 lockdowns. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to kayak this summer and have no regrets about the cost. I consider it an investment in my health!
Starting a new job
In early January, I started working for a community agency I’ve long admired, and am proud to be able to help children and families through my job. Because mental health struggles have increased due to the pandemic, I’ve been very busy. This can make it difficult to stay on top of my duties, given the fatigue that IPF causes. However, this year has undoubtedly been one of the most meaningful in my career, and I am excited to continue my professional growth with this agency for years to come.
Spending time with friends
While international travel remains a challenge due to COVID-19, many Canadians explored our own country and traveled domestically. I spent quality time with friends on Canada’s east coast this September, and those memories won’t soon be forgotten.
A collective PF project
In October 2020, I wrote a column about the importance of peer support for IPF patients, as I’d recently launched a support group in collaboration with the Pulmonary Wellness Foundation (PWF). This patient group has been working incredibly hard on a project this year: I am very proud to share that a book about PF will be released in the coming weeks. It is written by patients and Dr. Noah Greenspan, who founded PWF.
Our vision was a book “for patients, by patients.” We have compiled all our knowledge about living with IPF with the goal of making others’ journeys easier. This is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve ever worked on, as my co-authors live around the world and have vastly different experiences with the disease. As a result, writing collaboratively was difficult at times, especially after the loss of three co-authors along the way. However, we are proud of the final product, and look forward to launching the book.
Here’s to another great year!
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.