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October 22, 2018 at 7:41 am #14918Charlene MarshallKeymaster
It is easy to let sadness or anger completely engulf you following the diagnosis of a life-threatening lung disease like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Sometimes I am guilty of externalizing this sadness or anger, making others aware of just how much I am struggling. I try hard not to let this happen, but I think it is impossible not to experience these emotions when living with a lung disease that is ultimately going to end my life earlier than others my age.
Instead of letting these emotions take over, I intentionally try to combat them by practicing kindness towards others. This certainly is way easier said than done! However, since my IPF diagnosis and the kindness shown to me at various times, I have a greater appreciation for those who live their life practicing kindness. In a world that is becoming scarier each day in terms of political leaders, hate crimes or mental health crisis leading to violence; I believe in the importance of practicing kindness.
One of my favourite quotes comes from Ian Maclaren, which states: “Everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always”. Ironically, this was one of my favourite quotes even before I was diagnosed with IPF. I try hard to live through this quote, because I now know what it is like to be fighting a battle others don’t understand, especially since IPF is primarily an invisible illness.
I have had numerous acts of kindness granted to me as a patient living with IPF, however, there are three that I think about often, as they’ve been so significant in my life. I think of these acts of kindness when I am having a tough day, or really struggling with the negative emotions associated with living with a life-threatening lung disease. Not only does thinking about these help lift my mood, but they also inspire me to “throw kindness around like confetti” (another one of my favourite quotes). I thought I’d share these acts of kindness with you:
- In May of 2017 I experienced an exacerbation of my IPF following a bacterial infection that got into my lungs. It was a very difficult time for me not only physically but emotionally as well. It was the first time I’d really experienced a long intensive care stay and all I wanted was to go home. When I was discharged, I crossed paths with one of my nurses while leaving the hospital who shot me a smile that had so much kindness behind it. I actually wrote about what I think that smile meant in a column, which you can read here.
- In October 2017, I was anonymously gifted a portable oxygen concentrator (POC). It is very expensive to buy one of these machines, and having it provided by your oxygen supplier is possible but there is usually a wait and there are restrictions about travelling with their POCs. To this day I don’t know who gifted this device to me (although I have my suspicions), but it has changed my life in terms of being more mobile and free to still travel with my own POC. I couldn’t be more thankful for this person’s kindness.
- Three months before my diagnosis I got a dog, who has become the love of my life. In fact, I’ve written about her in previous columns, which you can read here. I got her on a breeding contract, which meant that she was to have two litters of puppies before she was technically mine. During each litter, I’d “lose” her for eight weeks at a time. She has become my companion throughout my illness, even joining me at the hospital occasionally. As my need to have her by my side grew, so did the fear of losing her for those eight weeks at a time. Just recently, the breeder sent me a letter officially releasing my dog from her breeding program and transferring ownership to me. She did this because she knows the comfort and companionship my golden retriever brings to me, and she said she never wanted to disrupt that. Her kindness will never be forgotten, because I couldn’t imagine my life right now without my dog.
Have you been touched by others’ kindness since your IPF/PF diagnosis?
How do you (or could you) practice kindness in your daily life?
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