By: Holly Beasley
Approaching college while living with Cystic Fibrosis can be undoubtedly frightening. Although, great challenges bring great rewards. This is what I have come to learn during my time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While I am only a sophomore at the university currently, I hope the knowledge I have gathered through my journey thus far will serve to touch others with CF.
I believe that living with Cystic Fibrosis requires honesty with yourself and others. Therefore, I must be completely honest with you regarding the college experience while living with CF. I do not aim to discourage but to instead challenge you to prevail. I think a unique strength was placed within all of us with Cystic Fibrosis to surmount any challenge that presents itself in our lives. One of these being college, if you so choose.
College with Cystic Fibrosis will certainly not always be easy. As you may know, sick days, lengthy therapy routines, and hospitalizations come with the territory. Combine all of this with the pursuit of higher education and one can become overwhelmed. Balance and prioritization become key in the life of a college student with CF. I know I have spent countless nights reading my textbook while my Vest was simultaneously shaking my lungs. There have also been times when I completed assignments while lying in my hospital bed. This is where balance comes in to play. Finding a system that makes time for both school and health care is crucial, but I want you to be certain that it is also achievable. Despite some extra setbacks and effort, I finished reading all of those pages in my textbook and an assignment has yet to be turned in late. Now, this is where prioritization becomes a major factor. In order to be an efficient student, your health must come first. If doing both becomes too taxing on your body, please remember that it is ok to give yourself a break from school. This has been a difficult lesson for me to learn as a student who always strives for perfect grades. The times I have put school before my health, it has never worked in my favor. I only became sicker, causing a worse impact on my academic performance than if I would have taken the time to recover initially. Carving an hour or so out of my day for therapy when I first noticed signs of sickness would have been much easier than the eventual hospitalizations that resulted from the neglect of this fact. Always put your health first. The aspirations you are seeking through your college journey can only become a reality if you are alive and well to participate in these realized dreams.
All of this may seem rather challenging. So how does all of this ultimately become rewarding? Well, that is entirely up to you. I’d like to give some insight on how this process has rewarded me, personally. This might be the same reasoning that inspires you to pursue higher education or you might have a unique drive that motivates you. Either way, hone in on this sense of why it is all worth it.
Each day attending college rewards me because it serves as a constant reminder that I am equally as capable as anyone without Cystic Fibrosis. We are all different and many of us have encountered at least some degree of a setback in our lives. Mine just happens to be Cystic Fibrosis, but I can work with this along-side my peers. One classmate may have had a parent pass away, another battled a different disease or any other challenge that life may present. Yet, we can all come together in one classroom in order to learn and grow as equals. College allows me to reflect on the fact that the circumstances life presented me with do not define me as lesser. Instead, they exist to strengthen me so that I may become more. Life with Cystic Fibrosis has not been easy and this has never been truer than in my time at college. As I sit here now, I can still honestly say that I am happy to have Cystic Fibrosis. We are forced to realize how special we truly are when challenged by this disease. Yes, I have experienced setbacks and hard times while in college. They have not defeated me and they will not defeat you. At times, I may have to exert extra effort because of my CF. The reward of knowing that I got the job done regardless is much greater than any challenge that college or Cystic Fibrosis may introduce.
Guest Blog By: Meranda Honaker
Over the last several months my health has continued to decline despite being compliant and diligent with my healthcare routine. In July I developed a fever during a trip to Boston to speak to a biotech company about my journey with cystic fibrosis. I developed a fever and by the end of my visit, I was unable to walk up steps without severe dyspnea. I was so exhausted from feeling sick I would return to my hotel room to lay in the bed for hours to rest. My chest pain and shortness of breath became so severe in the coming days that I could no longer take a deep breath. I checked my SpiroPd home spirometer which displayed a definite decline in my lung function. I immediately contacted my CF clinic to see my CF doctor. Initially, despite feeling bad, I assumed I was feeling poorly and decided not to rush to CF clinic. Sometimes I have a bad day or few bad days health wise and begin to improve on my own. Once I saw my lung function had declined I knew I needed to be seen in CF clinic rather than waiting it out.
Continue reading Home Spirometers: A Useful Tool in Tracking CF Symptoms and Progress
Be inspired to be compliant. Watch this brief video to learn more.
Big Air Jerry is a video series created by the Boomer Esiason Foundation to educate young people living with cystic fibrosis. Continue reading Big Air Jerry: Compliant with Cystic Fibrosis
In this video, Gunnar stresses the importance of building a routine in order to stay compliant with his treatments and remain healthy. He also reminds listeners to keep an open dialogue with their doctors and support teams at CF Clinics. Continue reading Cystic Fibrosis Step by Step: Building a Treatment Routine
Full disclosure here; I’m writing this while doing my treatments. In fact, I just stuck a syringe into a vial of sterile water, drew some out and then injected it into vial containing powdered medicine. Continue reading OWN IT: Do People With Cystic Fibrosis Experience FOMO?
Julia and I take a question from my most recent Facebook Live on the Boomer Esiason Foundation page, which asks about the progression of cystic fibrosis and how we deal with it.
Since cystic fibrosis is a progressive disease, it can take an emotional Continue reading Making it Matter Ep. 24 – Dealing with Disease Progression
CF Podcast 163: Strength and Fitness in CF Care with Will Schlucter
In this podcast we meet Will Schlucter, a 26 year-old CF patient who owns his own gym, Will Power Strength and Conditioning. After years during his youth of taking breaks during athletics, Will decided, as an adult, to push Continue reading Strength and Fitness in CF Care with Will Schlucter
Up For Air, The Inspirational Award-winning Documentary Available for Rent/Purchase
We are excited to announce that the award-winning Up For Air documentary featuring BEF ambassador and 60-year-old pole-vaulting coach living with CF, Jerry Cahill, is now available to rent and purchase on Vimeo. Watch the full movie here:
About Up For Air
The film, directed and produced by Artem Agafonov, was shot over a period of five years, highlighting the “lead by example” and “you cannot fail” attitude of Jerry Cahill as he overcomes the daily challenges of living with CF. Viewers will understand the importance of Jerry’s role as a coach and mentor to pole-vaulting athletes, as well as the sobering reality of Jerry’s daily medical regimen.
The documentary follows the steady decline of Jerry’s lung function, framing his body as a defective machine and pegging time as his ultimate antagonist. When Jerry’s lung capacity decreases to 19 percent, a double lung transplant becomes imminent.
Up For Air gives viewers a glimpse into Jerry’s journey as he transforms and vaults over the many obstacles of this next chapter of his life.
Learn more about Up For Air here.
As part of his 60th year, Jerry has Activated a “Living List,” and will Complete 60 Events this Year — This is 60:60
New York, June 27, 2016 – The Boomer Esiason Foundation (BEF) today celebrates the 60th birthday of Jerry Cahill, a BEF cystic fibrosis (CF) Ambassador and double lung transplant survivor, who proves that age is truly just a number and that success is possible with a strong commitment to your health. Within the last Continue reading Jerry Cahill, Boomer Esiason Foundation Ambassador, Celebrates 60th Birthday and Demonstrates that People with Cystic Fibrosis Can Live a Normal Life with Exercise and Medical Compliance
Like many of our readers, I have an abundance of CF stuff. Between IV supplies, inhaled medications, tubing for nebulizers, nebulizers for home and travel, neb cups, oral medications and diabetic supplies I feel like I live in a hospital. And since organizing all of the “junk” we have can be overwhelming I decided to share what I do. This does not mean that I think my system is great, perfect or Continue reading Organizing all the CF “stuff”