Opinion: Dying of a disease I never knew existed

By this time next year, if the medical forecasts are correct, I will probably be dead, another casualty of a fatal illness that most people have never heard of: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

This condition has been described by Michael J. Stephen in his 2021 book “Breath Taking” as the “most frustrating and disheartening of all the diseases in pulmonary medicine.” Over a frighteningly short time (the median age of survival after diagnosis is three years), patients with IPF will become increasingly short of breath as the lungs no longer perform their vital function of oxygenating the blood. The alveoli — the sac-like pockets where this process takes place — will fill with mucus and harden until, in Stephen’s disturbing phrase, the lungs “turn to stone.”

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