By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Quality of Life

Quality of Life

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is Q for Quality of Life

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
By Photo Credit: Content Providers(s): CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

We’ve experienced this dichotomy of holding so tightly to a life filled with pain and illness. We have made changes in our lives to accommodate the new normal.  For example, 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’re both content with that. Perhaps the key to seeing the quality of your life lies in contentment.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.


I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!


In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of 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

Also, check out Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker


  1. Daily Mail UK ‘It feels wonderful, actually’: The polio survivor who has lived inside an iron lung for 60 YEARS. By Daily Mail Reporter |

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10 comments on “Quality of Life

That quality of life is a biggie, I come to realize as life ticks on. I’ve clicked through to your two iron lung links.


Hi Jacqui, It’s amazing how much what is happening around us affects how we view quality of life, too. Having family that depends on us will certainly cause us to endure much more than if we are alone. I would never measure someone else’s quality of life by my standards, though. It’s so individual. Have a blessed day!


I think as long as I’m happy, I can consider that a good quality of life.

~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
My A to Z’s of Dining with IC
Patricia Lynne, Indie Author


Hi Patricia, That really is what it comes down to. Today (ironically) we reassessed my husband’s living will. It has been 5 years since he first filled it out. That is what he kept coming back to. If I can do such and such, I will still want to live. If I can’t do these things, then I won’t have any enjoyment left and it will be time to let go. For each person, those things will be different.


Quality of life considerations and discussions are probably some of the hardest things any of us ever have to address. It is indeed a very individual decision, but it makes such a difference when every one involved can support those decisions and choices. It sounds like your family is navigating this with grace.


Hi Deborah, We were discussing that today. We are so fortunate that our family is so supportive. My husband has also been blessed with the time to make his decisions and share them with us. Have a great day!


This is a tough one because only the individual can really explain if they have quality of life. Your husband’s comment on having a purpose to me is important. If you don’t have a purpose or reason to live then you aren’t really living a quality life. A great post and enjoy your week xx


Thank you, Sue. Yes, purpose makes such a difference in our quality of life. It propels us to keep going, even when it is hard to do so. Several times, when he has felt terrible, my husband has said, “If it weren’t for you and the girls, I would have gladly given up long ago.” It’s humbling when someone is willing to go through all of that for you. Have a fabulous weekend, Sue!


“Perhaps the key to seeing the quality of your life lies in contentment.”

I think you wrapped it all up in that one sentence, Heather. And you are right, it varies from individual to individual. Only you can decide what you are content with.
Emily Bloomquist recently posted…Quake: Puerto Lopez two years after a 7.8 rocked Ecuador #AtoZChallengeMy Profile


Hi Emily. Yes, and when you allow yourself to feel content, you are so much happier, regardless of your circumstances. Have a great weekend!


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