Improving Mental Health Within the CF Community

By: Ella Balasa

Having cystic fibrosis makes life sometimes stressful, sometimes lonely, sometimes painful, and oftentimes scary. But it can also make life seem more valuable, brighter, more optimistic, and more fun.

Figuring out how to balance the good and the bad, and come out from tough situations on the positive end can be challenging, especially without support from others. This includes support from family and friends who are physically there for us every day, and support from within the CF community, those who empathize in fighting this disease.

I’ve been very fortunate to have both of these kinds of support. Unfortunately, many who fight CF do it alone, without the support of many family members, friends, or spouses. Many also have yet to connect with the CF community online — either they aren’t on social media platforms or aren’t interested.

According to Cystic Fibrosis Foundation guidelines, CF patients are not to be within 6 feet of each other under any circumstances. They are encouraged to avoid being in the same vicinity at all. This is to prevent cross-infection, the transference of antibiotic-resistant bacteria between patients, which could spread more sickness around the CF population.

While this precaution is in place for our health benefit, it isn’t conducive to real-life friendships among individuals. This can create feelings of isolation, sadness, and the belief that no one understands, and combined with a potential lack of physical support from friends and family, it can be a recipe for serious mental health issues.

Everyone needs physical relationships. We all need someone’s embrace when we’re hurting. In a CF perspective, the hurt can be physical (such as lung pains or fevers) or mental (when we’ve hit a brick wall or the optimism we have that the next day will be better has faded).

To continue reading this article please click here.

Introducing our Newest Board Members!

Rachel Steinman

Hi! My name is Rachel Steinman, I’m 29 years old, and I’m super excited to be a member of the USACFA board.

I was diagnosed with CF at the age of 16 and have been very fortunate to have had fairly stable health throughout my life thus far. 

No matter one’s level of health, USACFA is an important outlet for our community. CF is a complicated disease and it affects every patient in a unique way. For me, having an online community has helped me both learn more about this disease, and feel less isolated in the process. 

I graduated from the University of Miami with degrees in Journalism and Sociology in 2009, and I spent a year volunteering with Americorps shortly after. A few years into my career I decided to quit my job and move to Tel Aviv, Israel for a change of lifestyle and a marketing position with a tech company. I moved back home to NY after a year to be close to my family.

I grew up on Long Island and currently reside in NYC with my boyfriend where I continue to work in digital marketing. I enjoy cooking, traveling with my boyfriend, and spending time with friends and family.

I believe I’ve been able to maintain good health with the help of a great team of doctors at Columbia Presbyterian in Manhattan, a positive attitude towards life with CF, lots of acupuncture and cupping therapy, and a very loving, supportive family.

As a new member of the board, I’m excited to be joining both the blog and social media committees, so please look out for future posts from me!

Amy Sylvis

Hello! My name is Amy Sylvis and I am so grateful to be a member of the USACFA board. I have been an avid reader of the CF Roundtable since the late 90s and I am forever grateful for how much I have learned over the past 2 decades from the publication. I fiercely believe that all people with cystic fibrosis should have access to the best care and latest knowledge – and I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to this prestigious organization. My specific passions include hemoptysis, aspergillus, CFRD and decreasing quality of treatment variation across CF centers in the United States.

I am 36 years old, diagnosed at 6 months old. I earned my Bachelors of Science in Business and Bachelors of Arts in International Relations from the University of Southern California as well as my Masters in Business Administration from USC. I have worked full time mostly in biotech and pharma, which continues to be my passion despite my health forcing me to leave work in 2017. In my spare time you can find me reading non-fiction, watching college football and traveling. My husband and I were married in August 2017, and we live in Los Angeles, CA with our little cocker spaniel/dachshund mix.

Congratulations to Our Scholarship Winners!

The US Adult CF Association (USACFA) is excited to announce our recipients of the Lauren Melissa Kelly Scholarship for the Spring of 2018.

In our evaluation, we look for students who demonstrate tremendous academic achievement, community involvement and a powerful understanding of how having CF matched with these achievements places them in a unique situation to gain leadership roles within the community. Our scholarship is open to all pursuing any degree, from associates to Ph.Ds. We believe that any higher education is a strong foundation for advocacy and involvement in CF.

We are pleased to announce Hannah Buck and Mary Grace Bernard as the recipients of this semesters’ scholarship. Congratulations to them! They will be awarded $2500 each.

Both of our recipients demonstrated the leadership, intelligence, and drive of Lauren Melissa Kelly. We at USACFA look forward to seeing them further develop their leadership and advocacy in the cystic fibrosis community.

We are also pleased to award runner-up scholarships in the amount of $250 to five deserving applicants: Elizabeth Shea, Chloe Creager, Rebekah Weigner, Holly Beasley and Christopher Davis, Jr.

We are excited to announce more scholarship opportunities coming soon! Please stay tuned for more information. For questions, please contact us at

Tips for Surviving a Holiday Admission

Guest Blog By: Lauren Jones Hunsaker

Most of us have had to suffer through a holiday admission at one point.  It’s a reality of our disease, which, for most of us, never made a habit of consulting our social calendars before burdening us with an exacerbation.  I’ve spent several Christmases, birthdays, wedding anniversaries and many-a-Thanksgiving admitted.  As far back as middle school, most of my holidays were spent in the hospital simply because it was an advantageous time for an admission.

It’s not an easy thing to endure for kids or adults.  On a good day, being in the hospital is boring, uncomfortable and tedious.  The holidays magnify our misery by adding self-pity and a serious case of F.O.M.O. to the litany of grievances.  However, there are a few easy things you can do to weather the emotional storm of a holiday admission:

  1. Make a To Do List. While a day of nothing but channel-changing can seem never ending, a daily to-do list can help compartmentalize your day and alleviate the monotony of an admission.  Reading, exercising, playing games or journaling at specific times can be helpful distractions and keep you from staring wistfully out of your window.
  2. Enjoy Holiday T.V. Ordinarily, I don’t watch a lot of television.  But during the holidays there are so many classic movies, parades and specials on, allow yourself to indulge in the holiday deluge.  If nothing else, it helps pass the time and connects you to the outside world (“Hey, did you catch It’s a Wonderful Life for the sixteenth time on NBC?”  “I sure did!” “I don’t really understand why ‘Hee Haw!’ is funny.” “Me either, but Clarence is my favorite.”).
  3. Schedule Holiday Events Post-Discharge. The holidays are the holidays because of family.  The pilgrims will not cast a pox on your house if you host Thanksgiving the following weekend so ask family members if they are willing to attend a second family gathering after your discharge.  This gives you something to look forward to and helps temper loneliness while your family memorializes turkey carving on Facebook Live.
  4. Try a Little Empathy. No one wants to be in a hospital on Christmas, including doctors, nurses and nurse’s assistants.  I know what you’re thinking – “they’re getting paid to be there.”    And so as to preempt your next argument, yes, some are getting paid a higher wage for working on a holiday.  But remember that many don’t have a choice in their work schedules, just as we don’t have a choice as to when we’re admitted.  Staff are away from their families and missing holiday gatherings so they can take care of patients.  Take a moment to tell a favorite nurse thank you for working on the holiday.  Sometimes making someone else feel better makes you feel better too.
  5. Order in a Special Meal. Diet restrictions permitting, indulge in a holiday craving (i.e., turkey with stuffing, Chinese takeout, multiple desserts).  Your doctors will love that you’re packing in some extra calories and it’ll give you a break from repetitious hospital food.
  6. Take Advantage of Tech. Twenty years ago, when we would emerge from an admission (shielding our eyes from the blazing sun, unaccustomed to human life), we had no idea what had occurred during our fourteen days of solitude.  Gone are the days.  With social media and constant connectivity, we rarely experience the same isolation we once did.  Use today’s technology to cyber-attend family events from afar—FaceTime into family dinner or Skype into religious celebrations.  Social media can sometimes (and ironically) exacerbate loneliness, but use its advantages to stay connected during the holidays.  Feeling included can boost morale and help you power through an admission.