I Have Cystic Fibrosis, and CF Has Me

This Lung Life By Ella Balasa

I hear others say “I have CF. CF doesn’t have me.” This may be an accurate statement for some, the small percentage of patients who are not limited by this disease. Those who climb mountain peaks, work 60 hours a week, and raise three children. They could say this statement is true. They conquer everything, despite CF.

I am not one of these patients. I am optimistic, though. I’m optimistic that one day I will sprint faster than you (with transplanted lungs). I’m optimistic that I will leave this world having made some kind of impact on those around me, and maybe others that I am unaware of. But with this DNA in the cells of my lungs, I can’t do it all.

I’ve had significant events and minute moments in my life that have been affected by CF, although it’s not always apparent to the world around me. However, I don’t claim that CF has altered my life for the worst. Instead, I show the reality.

CF had me most recently when I was planning to go to the Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc.’s Family Education Conference. Being a director for the U.S. Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association, I wanted to connect with fellow CF directors and hear about the amazing new research the CF community is eager to benefit from. Unfortunately, due to CF infection guidelines and the bacteria I harbor in my lungs, I posed a risk to other CF patients, so I was restricted from attending.

Recently, as my form of exercise, I have been playing tennis. CF has me when it grasps my airways after just a few serves. I feel my lungs expanding but not getting enough air, exhausted from a previous sprint of just a few feet. I watch as the ball spins toward the far corner of the court. In my mind, my legs are in the air moving toward it, but in reality, they have just elevated the sole of my foot for the first step. The muscles are depleted of oxygen, waiting for the next burst for them to spring into action, but it never comes. Instead, they continue straining with what little reserve they have, for one-quarter of their potential. The quarter that comes from the lungs that function at one-quarter of what they should.

CF dictated the direction my life would take when upon graduation I was offered my dream job, but I didn’t take that career path. Spending four hours a day on breathing treatments, attending frequent doctor’s appointments, having occasional hospital stays and health insurance factors, as well as maintaining a social life and community involvement weren’t conducive to a full-time working schedule. Choosing not to advance in my career as my peers did made me feel left behind. Instead, keeping my health as the focus, I chose part-time employment.

CF has me when I have an exacerbation and lots of congestion in my lungs. On occasion during these times, I’ve taken the flight of stairs from the basement out into the sunshine after work. After a few steps outside, I feel the absence of air in my lungs. I gasp and then panic. Continue the article here. 

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 191 ‘Why do you run?’ with Ben James

In his latest podcast, Jerry Cahill sat down with Ben James, a 19-year-old college student who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 4 years old. Originally from Chester, VA, Ben now attends Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio where he studies pre-medicine. When he isn’t focusing on school subjects like anatomy and physiology, Ben likes to play basketball and soccer, and also likes to run long distance.
Ben loves the challenge of running long distance for a number of reasons, including building character, facing challenges as an individual, and learning discipline, which helps with his overall medical compliance.
Click here to listen:
This podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Genentech to the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

The Year Ahead – Fall 2018 Scholarship Winner Guest Blog

By Roberto De La Noval

The next year is going to be a big one. I am writing against the clock to meet deadlines for my dissertation, sending out a book manuscript to a publisher, writing my first book review for an academic journal, presenting for the first time at a national conference…and all that on top of my first semester, in the Spring, of teaching undergraduates. Suffice it to say I’ll be busy. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Finally—at last—I feel like less of a perpetual student (I’ve been in higher education almost 12 years) and more like someone actually enjoying the first fruits of his career. That’s why I’m grateful to be one of the recipients of this year’s Lauren Melissa Kelley Scholarship; graduate school isn’t cheap, and so these funds will be of immediate help to me.

For example, I travel to one or two academic conferences a year, and often I cannot get the university to recompense me for all of the travel. That means that some of it comes out of pocket for me. The LMK scholarship will help me recoup these costs and make it more likely that I will pursue these opportunities to engage in the academic community and share my work. Another way the LMK scholarship will make a big difference is in allowing me to continue my language education. Now that I no longer am in coursework, the simplest way for me to continue improving my languages (German and ancient Greek are the ones I’m currently working on) is to have a private tutor who can work around my dissertation-writing schedule. These lessons are not cheap, but they significantly and rapidly help me improve my language skills, which in turn allows me to access more material for my scholarship and makes it possible for me to become a truly international academic who can engage with people from various parts of the world. It would be a welcome financial relief to know I have funds to continue my education now that I have finished formal coursework and am expected to be writing a book! In short, this is a critical period in my career of transition from student to scholar, and the LMK scholarship will facilitate this ctransition with greater ease.

In many ways the academic life is well tailored for someone negotiating the scheduled and regimented life cystic fibrosis demands. And I am happy to say that I’ve encountered nothing but support and encouragement from my faculty and colleagues when it comes to managing both my illness and my career. But it’s also a support in my work and life to know that so many others with CF are living their lives to the fullest, and that behind them there is a huge community of people who care about people with CF and work incredibly hard, often behind the scenes, to make a rich life possible for them. CFRoundtable and the LMK Scholarship are outposts of this amazing community of doctors, researchers, social workers, advocates, speakers, families, and friends. I relish the opportunity to be on the receiving end of their care, and I cannot wait to pay it forward in whatever way I can.

Past USACFA Scholarship Winner’s touching poem about CF

My name is Grace Knight and I am a college student with cystic fibrosis. I am 20 years old and go to the University of Pennsylvania. This past summer, I took a few summer school classes to make up for the medical leave I had taken the year before. In one of the classes, we had to write poems for our final project. One of the poems I wrote was this poem titled “Only Morning.” It is about how it feels to wake up with CF every day. The poetic form is based upon a classical piece I used to play called Chaconne in G minor by Vitali. I have actually previously compared to this piece of music to CF because the more into the piece you play the harder it gets. I found this similar to the progressive nature of the disease.

Continue reading Past USACFA Scholarship Winner’s touching poem about CF

You are invited! CF Transplant MiniCon

Another virtual event for our adult CF community!

About CF MiniCon: Transplant
This virtual event will explore all stages of the transplant process and allow those who are considering a transplant, preparing for transplant, or post-transplant to connect with others, learn more about the process, and share their experiences.

The CF MiniCon will feature a keynote presentation followed by storytelling panel discussions and small group video breakouts.

Check out the agenda at https://cff.swoogo.com/minicontx/agenda and register now, https://cff.swoogo.com/minicontx.

This event is open to adults with CF, their family members, and caregivers age 18 or older.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15
6:30 – 10 p.m. ET | 5:30 – 9 p.m. CT | 4:30 – 8 p.m. MT | 3:30 – 7 p.m. PT

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.

Broadway’s biggest stars come together to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis

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.”

This story was originally published on AOL.com

Surviving Home IVs As a Mom

By Janeil Whitworth

I’m no stranger to home IV antibiotics.

Actually, if I am being completely honest, I think we have gotten a little too friendly over the past decade or so. I prefer to do home IVs because I am one of those patients who goes a little nuts after being trapped in the hospital for too long. Seclusion and unlimited access to cable are not beneficial to my physical or mental well-being. I need the opportunity to be with people just as much as I need the comfort of my own bed to rest and heal completely. I’ve even gone as far as learning to access my own port-a-cath to create even further distance between the hospital and me. Plus, I enjoy the luxuries of home IVs such as creating my own schedule, eating my own food, using my own toilet paper, and coming and going as I please.

Releasing control

I’m positive I’m not the only one who struggles to release control over my disease while experiencing an exacerbation. Feeling the façade of freedom slipping away post-IV-talk, I involuntarily tighten my grip on my independence in a desperate attempt at normalcy.

In-patient admission? No way. Home IVs? Ok, I can do that. Thankfully, you can travel on home IVs, celebrate your bachelorette party on home IVs, and even graduate college on home IVs. But is it possible to successfully care for a 9-month-old baby on home IVs?

After the past few weeks of increased shortness of breath and unwavering fatigue, I agreed it was time for IVs. The reality of home IVs as a mom suddenly hit me as I exhaustedly said for the millionth time that day, “Please, don’t eat mommy’s IVs, buddy.”

I knew this was not going to be easy with a mobile, energetic baby crawling every which way, leaving a trail of alcohol pads in his path. (I think this might be the fatigue talking, but the crunchy hospital bed and one-ply toilet paper are starting to seem a little better right now.)

The last time I did home IVs, my son was 4 months old, so it made it a tad easier as he was just a chubby and adorable blob. I would set him down, hook myself up to the antibiotic-filled Eclipse ball, and he wouldn’t move. Those were the days.

There’s been very little rest this week, and admittedly, I tried my hardest to do it all even if I was feeling absolutely poisoned. In my defense, I felt my independence as a mom was slipping away once again, and the impulse to hold on tighter completely crept up on me. This way of thinking will not benefit me in the long run, neither as a mother, nor as a patient. A week has passed since I accessed my port to begin treatment, and I can see more clearly now that I am in desperate need of a different rhythm.

Finding a different rhythm

I am going to attempt to take my own advice for the remainder of treatment, including: 1) Ask for help; 2) Be easy on myself when it comes to everything else; 3) Remain grateful for the privilege of staying home. My normalcy in the coming weeks will look a little different. My parenting style will be altered as well. I need to accept that this is the price for staying home with my baby, while simultaneously being the nurse and patient. Everything needs to be taken in stride as I release my grasp and let the rest, antibiotics, and baby hugs heal me. I think this is the key to surviving home IVs with my health, sanity, and pride intact. I hope.

This blog was originally published on CF News Today.

Jerry Cahill’s CF Podcast: Stem Cell Research with Dr. Hans-Willem Snoeck

In this feature of The Path Forward with CF series, Dr. Hans-Willem Snoeck, Professor of Medicine (Microbiology and Immunology) at CUMC, sits down to discuss stem cell research as it relates to CF.

Because lung cells regenerate and repair themselves regularly, researchers believe that – some day – stem cell technology could be a one-time therapy to cure cystic fibrosis. Research is ongoing, but in the meantime, scientists can currently use human pluripotent stem cells to create lung organoids (tiny, 3-D structures that mimic features of a full-sized lung), introduce various mutations, and apply technologies to learn more about those mutations’ characteristics.

This video was originally published on JerryCahill.com

Vertex Employees Donate $1M to CF and Other Communities via Matching Gift Program

By Carolina Henriques

Vertex Pharmaceuticals employees have raised more million $1 million  using  the Vertex Foundation‘s matching gift program in a show of commitment to causes that include the cystic fibrosis (CF) community, a company press release states.

The dollar-for-dollar matching gift program is being run through the nonprofit Vertex Foundation, established by the company in November 2017 as part of it’s charitable giving goal of donating $500 million to qualified nonprofits and other causes worldwide over 10 years.

To date, more than 500 Vertex employees have used the program to support 753 charities around the globe working to advance work in areas that include healthcare, human services, education, and disaster relief.

Vertex’s charitable commitment has four primary goals: supporting CF patients and caregivers worldwide, including enabling access to Vertex’s medicines; helping underserved students and young women with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education; supporting young doctors and scientists; and strengthening and fostering innovation in local communities through health and wellness programs.

“Giving back is in our DNA at Vertex, and our employees have a long history of going the extra mile to improve the lives of patients, students and their neighbors,” Jeffrey Leiden, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Vertex, said in the release. “I’m proud that The Vertex Foundation is able to help extend the impact of our employees’ giving and look forward to seeing the reach of these investments in the causes they care about most.”

Also as part of its 10-year commitment, Vertex awarded $400,000 in scholarships to eligible CF patients and their family members in May as part of its second “All in for CF” scholarship program. In total, 80 scholarships worth $5,000 each were awarded for the upcoming academic year.

Vertex, which specializes in cystic fibrosis, has three approved CF therapies: Kalydeco (ivacaftor), Orkambi (lumacaftor/ivacaftor), and Symdeko (tezacaftor/ivacaftor).

The company is also testing potential triple combination treatments for CF.

For the rest of this article, click here.