People often talk about quality of life when it comes to health concerns. Decisions about treatment must take quality of life into account. Patients often decide to discontinue cancer treatment based on concerns about quality of life. What is quality of life? Is there a set standard for it? In today’s A to Z post, I propose that each person has their own standard, and often their perception of what constitutes quality of life will change.
Quality of Life in an Iron Lung
In 2007, I say a news report about the company that made the replacement parts for the iron lung. They were no longer going to make the parts. The newsman interviewed Dianne Odell, a woman who had spent 60 years of her life in the 7-foot long tube that kept her breathing. She had lived a full, and (to her) a wonderful life, despite being confined to the iron lung.
She died a year later after a power outage. People around the world mourned. I did, too. Even now, all these years later, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Her life made an impact. I would recommend looking her story up on the internet.
Often when someone is enduring something that is way out of our comfort zone, we say, “I could never handle that.” The truth is that you don’t know what you can handle until you have to. Life in an iron lung is something that I could never have imagined. So I was stunned when I learned that many people lived fulfilling lives in an iron lung.
“It feels wonderful, actually, if you’re not breathing well. When I was first put into it, it was such a relief. It makes all the difference when you’re not breathing,” says Martha Ann Lillard, another woman who lived most of her life in an iron lung. (1)
Quality of Life with Cancer
Our lives changed dramatically when my husband, Dan found out he had cancer. Since then, Dan has gone through dramatic changes in his health many times. With every new treatment came new side effects. They were extremely hard to cope with. Beyond the short term side effects, Dan also experienced long term changes to the quality of his life.
Yet, through all of this, we continue to live life as fully as possible. It is more precious to us than ever. I asked Dan about his thoughts on this.
“I’m satisfied with less. My quality of life has maybe diminished, but I still have a purpose. It’s harder to do the things I want to do because of pain and nausea. I’ve lowered my expectations and made peace with the lower quality of life.” -Dan Erickson
It’s an interesting thing to think about. Even though we’ve experienced this dichotomy of holding so tightly to a life filled with pain and illness, when I see someone else walking that same tight rope, I can’t help but ponder it in awe.
We have made changes in our lives to accommodate the new normal. We maintain a fairly loose schedule in case Dan doesn’t feel up to doing something as planned. Our activities are usually pretty low key. Thankfully, we are both content with that. Perhaps the key to seeing the quality in your life lies in contentment.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
- Daily Mail UK ‘It feels wonderful, actually’: The polio survivor who has lived inside an iron lung for 60 YEARS. By Daily Mail Reporter |
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, despite their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com.