Wearing Oxygen Has Taught Me the Lessons I Needed to Learn

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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“Just when we think we figured things out, the universe throws us a curveball. So, we have to improvise. We find happiness in unexpected places. We find ourselves back to the things that matter the most. The universe is funny that way. Sometimes it just has a way of making sure we wind up exactly where we belong.” –Meredith Grey, “Grey’s Anatomy”

Two years ago, right before April vacation week, I was admitted to the hospital. After years of suffering with shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue, I finally got answers. When doctors found that my oxygen levels were repeatedly dropping to the 80s with minimal exertion, my life changed.

Nobody provided instructions for how life should be lived with diagnoses of chronic hypoxia and exercise-induced pulmonary hypertension. I just got the diagnoses and a prescription to use supplemental oxygen for all activity. Two years ago, I had a different mindset. It took a major life event to put parts of my life into perspective and understand what is truly important.

Two years ago versus today. (Courtesy of Brittany Foster)

Wearing oxygen has taught me to believe in the good of other people. Although I have had my negative encounters with people who question my disability, there are truly more good people in the world. Whether it’s people stopping to hold a door for me, commenting on my strength, or telling me they will keep me in their thoughts and prayers. Moments like these should outweigh the negative experiences.

I have learned that my voice is the most powerful tool I have and is the very thing that will help create change. Before diagnosis, I was intimidated and afraid to take control of my health. For 24 years, I relied heavily on my mom to remember appointments, surgeries, procedures, and past medical history. Wearing oxygen and having a rare condition has taught me the importance of speaking up for both myself and others. I continue to advocate for awareness of invisible illness because, at one point, my illness was invisible, too. No one is alone in their struggles, and it’s up to each person to make their voices heard.

Oxygen taught me that there is so much more to life than “looking good.” For many of my teenage years, I struggled with dieting and a desire to fit the “perfect” image. Being put on oxygen was frustrating, considering the numerous times I spent in the past disliking my reflection and trying to change parts of myself. Having my life change so drastically has taught me that true beauty is self-love. Anyone can be thinner, change looks and hair color, spend hundreds of dollars on makeup, and beat themselves up at the gym. But doing these things will never make anyone happy without self-acceptance. When people release fear of being who they are, they find there’s so much more to life than realized.

In two years, I’ve learned that those who love me at my best, aren’t always the ones who love me at my worst. I realized that I don’t have the time or energy for mediocre relationships. Life guarantees nothing. Life can change at any moment. Why waste it in halfway relationships? Why would I want to spend it wondering if the people I surround myself with truly care about me? I have learned that if someone doesn’t make me happy, they aren’t worth my time. I have learned that true love from those who love me at my best and worst is the only kind of love that matters. Anything else is pointless.

Regardless of how hard people try to keep the ideal picture of life in mind, it never works out that way. It’s important to have hope that there will be better days and to trust that the universe knows what it’s doing. Change is the scariest thing in the world, but sometimes it’s exactly what we need. Something like an oxygen prescription may seem like the worst thing to happen, but you can find the positive in life’s curveballs.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


ann b wall avatar

ann b wall

I admire your wisdom . I hope you have care at a certified PH center. You are an excellent writer also. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

phoebe bryan avatar

phoebe bryan

this is a remarkable note to all who have PH or other issues needing oxygen.. I am an older person who always knew your words, to be true, but more than ever, since diagnosis of PH, after a hip replacement surgery, that was not the full time reality for needing oxygen.. It was a totally unexpected need and left my life on new rules and new expectations. the surgery was to fix my hip, so i could continue the travel i wanted, the visits i wanted and etc.etc, I usually enjoyed.
the point being,, my dearest of friends always came through, and i shed the ones, who had no value for me, except to be annoying use of friendship, that was abused at times. I have an amazing, loving family and a wonderful man in my life, that made it his priority to continue loving me, caring about me, and we live a thankful simpler life these days, content.. being positive, grateful for all we do have, is our mantra.. continue your values, care for your health, and keep going forward.

Brittany Foster avatar

Brittany Foster

Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I'm glad that you have the support that you need in life. It truly helps to have when faced with any type of challenges in life. Your words mean a lot to me.


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