Have you talked to your CF Team about your sexual and reproductive health?

By: Georgia Brown

I often say that there is no modesty in medicine.  I mean, we routinely talk with medical professionals who are used to gross anatomy.  But I realized I was wrong when I broached sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues with my CF physician.

After I attended the CFF MiniCon on SRH, I was so energized by the honest discussions that I had handwritten notes to share at clinic the next day.  After giving an overview of the event, I listed items clinics should be talking about and offered my notes for use as a reference. Continue reading Have you talked to your CF Team about your sexual and reproductive health?

The Cystic Fibrosis Reproductive & Sexual Health Collaborative (CFReSHC) Invitation to Participate

The Cystic Fibrosis Reproductive & Sexual Health Collaborative (CFReSHC) is a patient engagement project that provides women with CF the opportunity to be equal partners with healthcare professionals to shape the future of CF research.  CFReSHC offers women with CF the opportunity to participate on the Governance Board, Research Advisory Panel and Patient Task Force as Patient Partners to develop research projects that directly respond to the questions faced by women with CF.  CFReSHC holds monthly virtual meetings on topics that impact the lives of women with CF like contraception, family building, hormone influences on CF, incontinence and menopause.  As we enter our third year, CFReSHC is looking for women with CF who are passionate about sexual and reproductive health research to join our collaborative who can commit 4-6 hours a month and we provide  a small honorarium for your time commitment.

CFReSCH is looking for a:

  Social Media Strategist who has connections in the CF community or who is willing to engage with the CF community on our behalf.  CFReSHC currently has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the applicant would need to be able to post 2-3 times per week as well as check the platforms regularly and make responses as needed.  The applicant would need to attend 3 paid monthly meetings often held during work hours.

Grant writer and Coordinator who has connections in the CF community or is willing to connect with the CF community and engage it to seek out funding opportunities for potential grants.  The applicant would need to maintain a database of potential grant opportunities.  An applicant who has experience writing applications is preferred.  The applicant would need to attend 3 paid monthly meetings often held during work hours.

Women with CF are welcome to send a letter of interest to: cfreprohealth@gmail.com.  Together, we will respond to the health needs of the CF community by providing data for healthcare professionals to pave the way for improved sexual and reproductive health resources, healthcare, and knowledge.

7 Things Your Partner with CF Probably Isn’t Telling You

By Hannah Buck

Being in a committed, loving, long-term relationship is a distinctly intimate experience. It is the most intimate experience of humanhood many would argue. To see a person walking by and say to them, “Hey, you’re fairly OK-looking. Would you like to hold hands for forever and accrue debt until we die?” is to truly know companionship. That, and watching each other poop.

Chronic illness makes dating a thoroughly more vulnerable experience, and not just for the patient. You see, sickness affects everyone involved. It accelerates everything. Sickness makes daily life complicated (e.g. planning dates that aren’t physically taxing or one partner relying more on the other for help with everyday chores) and the future even less promising than it usually is. When you or your partner has a condition like cystic fibrosis, the bleak reality of your situation is sorely evident. It’s inescapable. One of you will die much sooner than the other. And with that intense reality flashing its lights 24/7, it can be tempting to hold things in.

I don’t speak for all people with CF in writing the following list — but by sharing what I’ve withheld in past romantic relationships, I hope to make you laugh, open your eyes, and help you become a better partner to the person whose hand you like to hold. Enjoy.

Things your partner with CF probably isn’t telling you

1. They’ve been wetting your bed for a while.

Have you ever rolled over in the middle of the night to feel a damp spot on the mattress? Has your girlfriend been known to spontaneously wash your sheets and comforter out of the goodness of her heart? Yeah, sorry to break it to you, it’s not because she’s an angel. It’s because she has coughing-induced, premature incontinence, and she doesn’t want you to know.

2. Their antibiotics give them diarrhea.

It just happens, OK! We don’t ask for this! Antibiotics have one mission: to kill. This includes good gut bacteria, which unfortunately messes up our tummies. Make your partner’s day by surprising them with a bottle of probiotic-rich kombucha to get things back on track.

3. They’d prefer if you looked away during their cough attacks.

Coughing ain’t cute. Yes, yes, I know you love them, but try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. If you were red in the face, foaming at the mouth, hunched over like the Notre Dame character, and spewing phlegm like a swampy sprinkler, would you want the love of your life to gaze longingly upon you? Probably not. Give ’em space.

4. They wish you visited them in the hospital more.

They just feel too guilty to say it out loud. It is unspeakably lonely to sit in a small room and face the same wall every day. Please, even if they insist they’re fine, be there for them. Stop by. Make the time. If you can’t do that, text, call, or video chat. While 24 hours pass by in a snap in the outside world, in the hospital, the hours drag like you wouldn’t believe.

5. It makes them really happy when you randomly flex your CF knowledge.

Showing your partner that you care about them enough to not only learn about their disease but about how it’s treated is an instant way to grow closer. For many of us, the only people we have to confide in about this part of our lives is our medical team, our family, and occasionally other CFers (but only online). Take the time to learn what’s what — get the medication names right, make yourself an ally, and demonstrate that the two of you are teammates in this fight.

6. Explaining what’s “wrong” with them to other people makes their life so much easier.

With this one, I want to repeat my disclaimer: I am speaking for myself, and every person with CF is different. Please talk to your partner before taking this advice.

With that said, I have always found it to be an incredible relief when my partner discreetly says, “She has something called CF, so she coughs a lot. It’s normal. So anyway … ” and then changes the subject when I have a cough attack around people who don’t know me. Explaining myself is something I’ve had to do my entire life, so having someone else do it for me is a treat I savor every time.

7. They don’t feel worthy of your love, and they feel guilty about loving you.

I hope this one isn’t true for you guys. In my case, it is, and I suspect it’ll be a lifelong battle. Having an incurable illness is a heavy burden to bear, but when you’re born with it, there’s no other option. Putting it on another person, though, that’s different. That isoptional. And it can feel impossible to justify exposing the person whose hand you like holding to that level of lifelong pain.

This post originally appeared on CF News Today.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Resources

Looking for practical, up to date information about sexual and reproductive health for women and girls with CF?

Guides from puberty to incontinence to urinary tract infections to contraception and pregnancy address in detail many areas of sexual health and CF. To help you start the conversation,  share them with your CF team, pediatrician or gynecologist. Continue reading Sexual and Reproductive Health Resources

CF and Menopause—I have questions…

By Georgia Brown

As a woman with Cystic Fibrosis, at 47, I am considered old—but it is a title I relish.  It means I have weathered the CF storm and I look at each birthday as an accomplishment.  But as I enter the next phase of my life, I find I have more questions than answers.

While I don’t fear menopause necessarily, I do fear embarking on this life changing phase without understanding how CF puts its unique twist on it.  And that is why I am glad that I have found the Cystic Fibrosis Reproductive and Sexual Health Collaborative (CFReSHC).  Each month the group meets to discuss issues specific to women with CF.  Then CFReSHC uses the feedback from meeting participants to help shape future CF research.  This is one way, we, as patients, pave the way for improved sexual and reproductive healthcare.  

The next virtual meeting “Hormones Across the Lifespan” will be Thursday, February 22, 2018 from 11 am to 1:00 pm EST.  Dr. Raksha Jain of the University of Texas Southwestern will discuss how hormones affect women with CF from puberty to menopause.  Then, the CF women in attendance, will break into smaller groups to discuss personal stories and identify the top three hormone-related topics that need further research.  The meeting is open to all women with CF in the United States.  For more information on CFReSHC and for login information from your laptop, or mobile device, email CFReSHC at cfreprohealth@gmail.com. Women who attend receive a $25 gift card from Amazon.  

Behaviors, experience and health care utilization in young women with CF

In this issue of the journal, Kazmerski et al. describe the sexual and reproductive health concerns and related healthcare utilization of young women with CF ages 15–24 years at five CF centers compared to that of the general population [[1][2]]. They found that the sexual activity of young women with CF mimics the behaviors of non-CF counterparts; however women with CF have less access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Continue reading Behaviors, experience and health care utilization in young women with CF