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.
What do you get when Broadway’s biggest stars, such as Javier Muñoz and Gideon Glick, come together in the recording studio? One heck of a song. And one heck of a message.
Joined by Broadway veterans Laura Osnes, Christy Altomare and actress Sarah Levy, Muñoz and Glick have banded together for a new campaign — called the “Anyway” campaign — for an original song to help raise money for Emily’s Entourage.
At the center of the Entourage is Emily Kramer-Golinkoff: a 33-year-old daughter, sister and granddaughter who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was just a few weeks old. Her parents, Liza and Michael, have done everything in their power to raise Emily as if she was a normal child.
As the fatal disease only affects 70,000 people worldwide, funding for a cure is limited. Emily and her family are even more restrained by her specific mutation, which means medical funding is even rarer. And with a life expectancy of only 35-37 years for her kind of CF, time’s ticking.
Six years after the Kramer-Golinkoffs decided to take matters into their own hands, they’ve raised $3 million to drive high-impact research and speed up breakthroughs to research not only Emily’s mutation, but many other diseases including muscular dystrophy, inherited blood disorders and certain cancers.
They’ve also built a network of family, friends, and strangers from around the world, all of whom have been welcomed into the Entourage. Each Entourage member has been more inspired by Emily’s story than the next.
Take Elizabeth Phillipson-Weiner, from Emily’s hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and composer of “Anyway.” She took a simple journal entry from a songwriting retreat, turning lyrics like “when the going gets tough I ask questions” into a prolific melody.
Elizabeth explained to AOL Lifestyle. “The song wasn’t just cathartic for me, but could actually ring true for a lot of other people. I immediately thought of Emily.” Working with co-writers, producers and engineers, that melody was soon turned into a demo.
But as inspired as Elizabeth was by Emily’s story, the Entourage required “star power” to bring this project alive.
“I cold contacted agents and managers, I asked friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends,” said Elizabeth. “We did hear ‘no’ quite a bit, but whenever I became discouraged or frustrated I thought about who and what I was doing this for.”
When disaster strikes, what is important to you??
What are the things that you know you must have with you in the event of a disaster, either natural or manmade? Where do you keep these essential items? What plans have you made for surviving when basic services are interrupted? It could be even as small of a disaster as when your air conditioning goes out in the heat of summer? How do you manage?
Please consider contributing to CF Roundtable by sharing some of the experiences of your life. In addition to the focus topic, we welcome humorous stories, articles on basic life experiences, short stories, artwork, cartoons, and poetry. We require that all submissions be original and unpublished.
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Eighteen Years of Life Post-Transplant
By Andrea Eisenman, Executive Editor of CF Roundtable
Reflecting back on my life for the last 18 years post-transplant, I am amazed I have lived so long. Way longer than I expected, considering the 50 percent median survival of 5 years after a bilateral lung transplant. I am grateful for this time in which I was able to get married, go back to school for various interests like film and cooking, and care for my mom in her later years, share my life with people I care about and never in recent memory felt this good.
While I have enjoyed a good quality of life, it came with a price of total compliance almost to the point of being neurotic at times (my doctors probably get sick of my calls and emails), a daily exercise regimen and lots of rest. But I found that if I did things I enjoyed like tennis, pickle ball or swimming, it helped get the exercise for that day done while it was fun and social.
I have been extremely fortunate as not only do I have this longevity with transplant and I feel pretty well. Aside from the last 12 months, I have had the ability to travel and do most things my peers do. While I had some setbacks recently, I am starting to feel better. I keep a positive outlook and do what is needed. I can see how precious this gift of life is and I hope that when my time comes to be a donor, the person who gets my organs enjoys them as much as I enjoyed these lungs.
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- Create a strict exercise program with the hospital rehab center and integrate it into the patient’s schedule.
- Meet with a nutritionist in order to maintain proper weight.
- Educate! Meet with the care team in order to understand the entire process – both pre and post transplant.
Guest post by: Kathy Russell
Today was a terrific day! We have just experienced a three-day series of high temperatures in the 80s. In the middle of summer that would be quite normal, but getting that kind of weather in April is extremely rare in my part of Oregon. I made the most of those days.
In our front yard, we have a very old and very large black walnut tree. There is a brick planter built around the base of the tree and there are various plants, including several sword ferns, growing in it. The sword ferns are beautiful if they are properly groomed. Each year, when the weather permits, I get out and cut away all of the old fronds to make room for new growth.
I didn’t get to do that last year because of my health. I just didn’t have the energy to do the bending and twisting that the task entails. Also, since I am on continuous oxygen, it makes getting out to the tree a bit problematic. Dragging my portable oxygen concentrator (POC) while I am pruning the ferns is a bit of a pain. I bend over and cut some old fronds, then I have to stand up and drag the POC to my next position. It makes it more of a chore and a lot less fun than it used to be before I was on oxygen.
Yesterday I worked on a couple of ferns that I could reach with the length of hose that is on my big concentrator. That was fairly workable, but I couldn’t go beyond the range of my hose. Also, I couldn’t reach two of the ferns. After about an hour I was getting too hot and decided to stop working on a large fern that was at the end of my tether.
Today, my husband took my large concentrator outside and plugged it into an outdoor outlet. With the 75 feet of hose that I have on it, I had a lot of freedom to move around. I was able to finish the fern that I left yesterday and finish the final two. I didn’t have to worry about running out of hose length and I felt so unencumbered. It was so great to be able to move around like a normal person. I absolutely loved that feeling of freedom. It was almost like not even being on oxygen.
My oxygen saturation stayed in a very good range and I got a couple of hours of fresh air. I was mostly in shade so I didn’t have to worry about being in the sun too long. Having the ability to move around and not have to drag a POC was a real gift as far as I am concerned.
by Mary Bulman; Independent UK
“Woman spends record six days without lungs thanks to ground-breaking procedure”
Yes you’ve read that correctly.
Yes, it reads six days.
A true miracle! Definitely an understatement.
Though it’s been over a year since this procedure was carried out, it’s one that I believe cannot be shared enough. A huge step for medicine and science- but perhaps a larger one for the human condition and the willingness to live and fight.
“I still don’t believe it happened. It seems very surreal.” says patient Melissa Benoit.
And that’s because it is, Ms. Benoit.
After coming down with the flu the last year 2016, Ms. Benoit was taken from her home in Burlington, Canada to the ICU in a nearby hospital located right outside of Toronto, Canada. Doctor’s made the spilt decision to go through with a first time procedure in order to save her life. After becoming resistant to most antibiotics, bacteria began to move throughout her body, eventually causing her to lapse into septic shock. One by one her organs started shutting down, due to the decline of her blood pressure.
“Although it had never been carried out before, doctors decided to remove her lungs entirely.”
“What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die,” said Dr Shaf Keshavjee, one of three surgeons who operated on her. “That gave us the courage to say — if we’re ever going to save this woman, we’re going to do it now.”
To learn more about Ms. Benoit and the new breed of surgery that was carried out please continue onto the article below:
The 2017 GreatNonprofits Top-Rated Award Winners list is published!
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