Reflecting on a Great First Month of 2019

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by Charlene Marshall |

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Last year, I wrote a gratitude miniseries reflecting on the positive things that took place each month. While I am not continuing that miniseries this year, I did reflect on why this month was so great for me after a colleague commented on how at ease I looked recently.

I do feel more at peace with things, especially compared to the turmoil I felt toward the end of last year. I gave it some thought why that might be and wanted to share my strategies in case it helps others with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Navigating a life-threatening illness is not easy, and IPF impacts us in hundreds of ways beyond the physical struggles. You can read more about the invisible aspects of this disease in a column I wrote called “Surviving IPF Is More than Enduring Its Physical Impact.”

Unfortunately, I invested my emotional energy and time in some wrong places toward the end of last year, particularly in my career and in some personal relationships. I decided that wasn’t going to happen this year and took some intentional steps to ensure it didn’t. The negativity I struggled with toward the end of 2018 did not help me cope with my illness in any way, as I found myself dealing with social, emotional, and mental difficulties in addition to physical struggles. This was not good for my overall health.

Connect with other patients and share tips on how to manage PF in our forums!

At the Pulmonary Fibrosis News forums, I’d previously written about a book that had a huge impact on me when I read it the first time. I’ve since reread Sarah Knight’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck,” and this time, I did all the necessary work to help with my mental clarity. It illuminated some harsh truths for me, bringing tears and uncomfortable feelings, but it was so important. I will elaborate on this a bit more below, but this was probably the most helpful first step in ensuring the upcoming year would be better than the last.

Following are some other things that helped me have a great first month in 2019 and that will continue to positively shape the upcoming year:

  • I stopped feeling guilty for saying no. I used to advocate for others to do this and preached that I didn’t feel guilty when I declined to do something for others. However, I think a part of me still felt guilty, and that ate away at me silently and slowly. I don’t just say no to something when I want to, but I do spend time critically evaluating whether or not I want to participate in an activity and take on the extra responsibility. After I do that and come to the conclusion that I really don’t want to do something, I can truly not feel guilty for saying no. It’s an extra step, but one that really has helped me.
  • I focused on what makes me happy and started making long-term plans. Many people who read my columns know that traveling makes me happy. I spent some time thinking carefully about where I wanted to go this year and what steps I needed to take financially and physically to get there. I chose a destination and made a long-term plan to make this trip a success, with small goals along the way.
  • I reevaluated my finances. There is no arguing that financial stress is one of the worst feelings and can contribute to negative coping in many ways. Earlier this month, I met with my financial adviser to make a plan to ensure my finances were being invested where I wanted them, and that my plan would set me up for the most success when the time came that I could no longer work. I immediately felt better after this meeting.
  • I got creative! I love creativity and am a big do-it-yourself crafter at home. I have intentionally carved out some time each weekend to spend crafting. This not only makes me feel good, it also is therapeutic because my mind can’t focus on other thoughts beyond the tasks at hand.
  • Taking Sarah Knight’s book literally. Again, this was an uncomfortable process and it evoked many feelings within me. However, once I was finished, an incredible list of what I truly cared about emerged, and I am using this as a guide to help with my emotional and mental health this year. She walks readers through the creation of lists about where to invest time and energy, and if you do the exercises right, they can be really helpful. Plus, her book is a parody and made me laugh a lot, which is always welcome.

Do you have any intentional plans to make this year a great one? How are you prioritizing your needs this 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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Larry Travis avatar

Larry Travis

I would love to visit my sons and grandchildren who live 6 hours by plane from me. I have limited my travel to day trips by automobile because of my fear of picking up a disease from the airplanes and their poorly designed fresh air systems.
I would be interested in knowing how you deal with this risk. I am 71 and am still in pretty good health except for my PF.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Larry,

Thanks so much for reading my columns and for getting in touch via the comments. I'm always interested in this topic, as discussions about plane travel among IPF patients seems to greatly differ. I still fly, and just take proper precautions although nothing can protect us completely I suppose. I fly with a special mask on (Vogmask) and either use gloves and constantly sanitize my hands at the airport to try and reduce any exposure. I keep my mask on from the moment I step into the airport until I reach my destination, as I know how germ-filed the airports and planes are. Might this be an option for you? I also travel with my portable oxygen concentrator which is permitted on planes to help keep my sats in an acceptable level during travel. Not sure if this helps at all :)



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