By Stephanie Rath
My father committed suicide when I was four. Being an only child it was just my mom and I. Thankfully we had help. We moved from North Carolina and into the basement of my grandparents. Being a single mom my mother needed help back then more than ever. I’m sure it was not easy to have to rely on her parents again when she was an adult.
Being an only child of a single mom I was extremely independent. Once we had enough money we had our own house and I often was by myself after school. It made me grow up and be responsible very fast. I really liked the independence however.
Luckily I was not as sick as others as a young child with cystic fibrosis. Life was fairly normal except for the occasional “cold”. As I got into my teens the disease started to wreak havoc on my body. However, I was still very independent all the way through college. After graduation a severe exacerbation changed all that. I went into right heart failure, was put on oxygen, and was listed for transplant. I had to move home from Chicago and lost my independence. I really needed major help for one of the first times in my life.
After stabilizing my health (and avoiding transplant) for about 20 years after that I felt like I was in control again. I got married, had a great job, bought a house, etc. Unfortunately things changed. Once again my health declined and I needed help. Asking for help has always been tough for me. Feeling like I can’t do things for myself is very frustrating.
I retired on disability and started the lung transplant process. We had to relocate to Pittsburgh and I needed help. Fortunately I have so many great friends that helped me fundraise to cover the expenses of the transplant and housing. It was a very humbling experience. It was very difficult to ask people for both their financial help and their time to assist in various ways.
After transplant I started to feel in control of my life again. After a while though this changed. My kidneys have been failing and now I’m in need of a kidney transplant. There are many days I’m very tired and just need to nap. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who is there to help. As I navigate this next medical adventure, I know I will need lots of help along the way. It’s not easy but I’m finally learning to ask for that help. I’m grateful that I have so many friends and family that are willing to give me that support.