Celebrated Art Critic With Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) Has One Year to Live

Richard B. Woodward, a well-known New York art critic, recently shared his diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in an article featured in Stat News. He explains that the general life span after diagnosis is one to three years. Woodward is 69 and was diagnosed two years ago. He is trying to fully comprehend that he may only have one year to live.

In May of 2021, Woodward was regularly playing two sets of doubles tennis three times a week. Within two months he was barely able to swing a racket. He takes one of two drugs approved by the FDA in 2014 that are supposed to slow lung deterioration. However, his doctors are not certain if the drug is having an effect.

In describing the disease, Woodward acknowledges that he is already experiencing shortness of breath. Although Woodward is still able to perform as an art critic, he must take a portable respirator and transport chair with him as his lungs are no longer able to oxygenate his blood.

He explains that the alveoli, which are sac-like pockets, eventually harden and in Woodward’s words, “turn to stone”.

Woodward finds it difficult to understand how a disease, that causes the death of almost forty thousand people each year in the U.S., can remain virtually unknown. He points out that the total deaths are five thousand more than dying from prostate cancer and slightly less than dying from breast cancer.

Estimates are that each year almost two hundred thousand people living in the United States have been diagnosed with IPF. Woodward is very conscious of the fact that the disease has not received the usual awareness or fund-raising campaigns such as TV ads, races, or even ice-bucket events.

He emphasizes that when he was told that he had IPF two years ago his main concern was that he may have colon cancer. Woodward was operated on in November of 2019 to remove a large tumor from his large intestine.

He felt fortunate that his cancer had not spread to other areas in his body. After twelve rounds of chemotherapy in early January 2020, his blood tests did not show any traces of cancer.

After receiving the good news, Woodward was informed that the potent drugs, although responsible for curing his cancer, may have serious side effects. His CT chest scan showed signs of damage to tissue in his lungs. This is an indication that the alveoli are blocked. He was referred to a pulmonologist.

Woodward was not especially concerned and assumed the problem would eventually be resolved with simple antibiotics. He said that the thought that scarring in the lungs could be symptomatic of anything deadly never occurred to him.

IPF had been identified in the nineteenth century but there has been no aggressive research attempting to alleviate its symptoms or search for a cure. To this day, its causes are unknown. In Woodward’s case, the doctors are uncertain whether or not chemotherapy was actually the trigger. Therefore, it is termed ‘idiopathic’.

Woodward’s Dire Prognosis

Woodward is ineligible for a lung transplant which “would have been” his only hope. The operation requires that a patient must be cancer free for five years. The second part of this scenario is even worse.

If he were to live three more years he would then have to wait two years for one lung or three years to receive two lungs. At his current age of 69, even if these requirements were met, at age 75 he would be past the cutoff date for authorization of a lung transplant.

Yet Woodward is thinking not only of himself, he leaves a message that unless there is a large spotlight on IPF to attract the attention of the medical and industrial complex, and people learn of its existence, we all can expect the status quo.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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