JACKSON, MISS– When Bill Pommy was 63 years-old, he started noticing a little shortness of breath when going upstairs.
For many, that would have been attributed to poor shape and an aging body. But for Pommy, it was cause for concern.
“I noticed I was getting out of breath when going up a flight of stairs,” said Pommy. “Not a lot, but it was still unusual for me so I mentioned it to my general practitioner.”
Pommy said that’s when the flurry of test began. At first, it was just a listen to his lungs while the doctor pressed the cold stethoscope against his back. From there, he was referred to a specialist, and after x-rays, Pommy was prepped for surgery to have a lung biopsy.
“It was a big ordeal,” said Pommy. “I was in ICU for four days after that.”
Pommy was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a rare condition that impacts breathing because of the deterioration of the health of the lungs.
“The delicate tissue of the lung, which is important for moving oxygen through the body,” said Dr. Devin Sherman, a pulmonary disease specialist at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, Tennessee. “starts to get scarred down. You get increasingly short of breath and develop a cough with that as well.”
But the scarring continues, causing the need for an oxygen tank and different breathing therapies and treatments.
Pommy said he was floored by his diagnosis.
“Your life expectancy is about three years after diagnosis,” said Pommy. “For me, it was denial.. it didn’t affect me much other than going up the stairs. Other than that, there was no evidence of it in my life.”
Pommy said acceptance came much later, after doing research about the condition.
“But there are still pieces of denial, because I’m still in pretty good shape,” said Pommy. He was diagnosed eight years ago, and is still strong.
“But I dread the day that I start to go downhill,” Pommy said.
The disease currently has only one cure.
“The only cure is a lung transplant,” said Pommy. “And thankfully, my health is too good for that.”
Pommy’s story is not the diagnosis. His story is how he’s handling life since then. Aside from pulmonary rehab, exercise, medicine and monitoring, Pommy said there is one main thing that is keeping him going.
“Prayer!” Pommy explained. “If you’re at all religious.. it just does something.”
Pommy said his faith, along with positive thinking and mindfulness meditation have kept him in high spirits to fight the disease.
For more information about Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, click here.