pulmonary fibrosis

West Hartford Man Makes It His Goal to Make a Difference After Devastating Diagnosis

Three years ago, Mal Doyle was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Since his diagnosis, he's found a silver lining by supporting others and making a difference in his community.

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Nobody wants to learn that they have a life-threatening disease, but when one West Hartford man got that news, he not only decided to fight, but also took action to help others.

This week, Mal Doyle will participate in the PFF Summit 2021.

Three years ago, Doyle woke up on an ordinary day in West Hartford and stepped out of his house to go for a walk.

“I got two houses down here, and I had an exacerbation and I could not breathe,” he said. “It just stunned me. And I looked and I was only two houses away, but was afraid I couldn't get back.”

A trip to the doctor turned his world upside down.

“He told me I had three to five years to live,” Doyle said.

He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a debilitating and incurable disease that causes scarring in the lungs.

“I said, ‘You have given me a lot to chew on, in less than one minute, really. What am I going to do? Am I going to let this disease consume me, or will I fight it?'” Doyle said.

For the dad, and grandpa, the answer was fight. Now three years have passed, and much has happened.

Doyle finds great comfort in the Greater Hartford Pulmonary Fibrosis Support Group, which he leads.

“This is about those people who really need one another. All I am is a vehicle to bring people together,” Doyle said.

He also serves as an ambassador for The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. On Wednesday, he will share his message on a national platform, taking the stage as a panelist during the PFF Summit 2021.

“My role will be to talk about support groups,” Doyle said. “It’s important for anyone considering to start a support group, don't be afraid to do it. We need a forum to share what our hopes and our fears are.”

Doyle will serve on the panel for the session “Exercise, Education and Social Support,” scheduled for 11 a.m. This is the sixth biennial summit, which aims to drive awareness and accelerate research. Doyle went to the previous summit in San Antonio, Texas in 2019.

He is also doing a lot of work right in his own backyard.

“We want to get more and more businesses to spread the word,” he said.

Doyle has raised awareness and funds alongside local businesses and town leaders. He has facilitated a yoga event in Blue Back Square and a walk called “Steps For Better Breathing.”

He also got support from Delamar Hotel West, which lit its fountains blue, and even got West Hartford’s mayor to designate September as Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.

“Most of us, breathes 20,000 times a day, and we never give it a second thought. But if you have a lung disease, you realize that every breath that you take is a breath of life. That’s why I do it,” Doyle said.

Three years after his diagnosis, Doyle celebrated his 84th birthday and is still fighting.

“We thought we were going to have more time. But now we have the ability to spend quality time with the people that we love the most,” he said.

In what was at first devastating news, Doyle has found a silver lining.

“There's a clock up above, and that clock is ticking,” he said. “When the end comes, it comes. But at least we have an idea as to how much time we have left, and what we can do in the time that we have.”

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