Juggling Responsibilities and Compliance – Guest blog by LMK Scholarship Winner

By: Mike Miccioli

I went to high school in Nashville, Tennessee and am currently a freshman at Harvard. Growing up in Nashville, I always focused on academics and staying healthy. On the academic side, I have always had an interest in mathematics, and physics is a fascinating way to apply math to science and the universe. I took all the toughest courses in math and science, and I competed in every math competition and Science Olympiad contest available. I did applied mathematics research at Vanderbilt University the summer after my junior year of high school, and different research during my senior year in condensed matter physics. On top of this hefty workload, my school required all its students to play sports after school year-round. With all of these obligations and many hours of homework each night after sports, working in my CF therapies was not easy; however, from an early age I learned the lesson that I had to prioritize my CF therapies that were necessary to keep me healthy and enable me to pursue my academics and sports. I had to be disciplined, and I got up early each day before school to make sure I did all my vests and nebulizers in the morning. There was a second round each evening, and I would always try to combine homework with both the morning and evening sessions. If a special circumstance would throw my schedule off and interfere with my therapies, I always made them up at different times during the same day; it was a given that I couldn’t miss therapies.

Compliance with the therapies that are available to us nowadays is crucial to having a good outcome with CF. There is generally a vast difference between the outcomes of patients who do their best to comply with their therapies every day and those who have a hard time completing theirs on a regular basis. I have always stayed aware of this fact and used it to motivate me to be compliant, and I believe it has paid off.

This fall I made the transition to my first semester in college, 1200 miles away from home and my support network. The first adjustment was being responsible for remembering to do everything without prompting from my parents. That wasn’t too difficult, and a bigger challenge was learning how to be more flexible in how I achieved my full compliance despite the fact that my schedule was different every day. Reflecting back on my years prior to college, my schedule was the same nearly every day, and this helped me stay disciplined in keeping up with my therapies. In college, I have had to look at each day and determine when I am going to fit in my routine as I meet all my academic obligations. Having completed my first semester, while it was frustrating at first, I eventually fell into a rhythm — from having nighttime labs one day to having an overloaded afternoon the next, eventually I encountered all the different scenarios I would be faced with, and it became easier to deal with each day’s changes.

I am continuing my studies of math and physics at Harvard and am currently in the process of applying for research opportunities for this summer. At this point, I am thinking that I want to pursue a career in scientific research. I guess one of the main reasons I feel this way is because I have personally benefited from modern advancements in medicine. I currently take one of the CFTR modulator drugs and have had good results with it, and it reminds me every day of how people can benefit from cutting edge research and have their lives changed in meaningful ways. I hope to be able to contribute back to the scientific community and perhaps some day make a difference for others.

This also relates back to the point I was making before about working hard to be as compliant as possible with your CF therapies. CF research has made amazing strides, and it appears that significantly improved CFTR modulators will be available to as many as 90% of those of us with CF sometime in 2019. The healthier we are when these new therapies become available, the better positioned we will be to take advantage of their benefits to the maximum degree possible. That is the other big reason to try and stay compliant. So, in conclusion, I want to encourage everyone to remember that while it is difficult to make compliance a priority day after day, without a break, particularly when you are in college with new vistas to explore and great demands for your time, it is worth it, and you will reap the benefits in the short run and even more so down the road when new therapies become available.

How One Conversation Led Me to Being More Intentional About My Life

By: Ella Balasa

Would I ever live long enough to fall in love? Would I be able to graduate college? Would I be remembered for making some kind of impact on the world before I was gone? Would I get to travel to destinations where the breaking waves crashed against a rocky shore and the sea mist sprayed as I breathed deeply, and beside me stood …

Gabriella-Balasa-Beach-Featured-Rectangle

I’m startled back to reality. I sit in a hospital bed, surrounded by my parents in chairs on either side of me. I’m on the lumpy foam mattress, where I sit cross legged and my butt sinks at least 4 inches straining my back and adding to the pain the past few weeks — and this conversation — have caused me. My dad sits, lips pursed as normal when he listens intently. We are all listening to my doctor talk about my declining health, about my recent episode of pneumonia, and what my future may hold.

“No one knows the future,” I think, as the doctor speaks. My mind jumps again to that ocean scene, only it isn’t me standing on the shore, I’m now observing the scene from above, as if in spirit. Observing a couple embrace and I feel a strange sense of sadness, anger, and jealousy.

“It’s time to consider a lung transplant.” Those words, uttered from my pediatric CF doctor 6 years ago, made me, in an instant, think about all the joys of life I hadn’t gotten to experience yet.

Why me? That’s the first thought many people have when they can’t accept the reality of what’s happening. We try to answer unanswerable questions.

Later that summer, my parents and I followed doctors’ advice and scheduled a week-long transplant evaluation. A week of what I still consider to be grueling medical tests, even compared to other lung complications I have developed since. In the end, the transplant evaluators concluded I was not quite in the transplant window at the time. That fall, my health started to stabilize. I started my second year of college and I felt myself withdraw from the world.

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College and CF – Spring 2018 Scholarship Recipient Guest Blog

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.

US Adult CF Association Scholarship

The United States Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association (USACFA) is excited to announce our first-ever Lauren Melissa Kelly Scholarship award. The scholarship will be awarded to two adults with cystic fibrosis who are pursuing bachelors or Continue reading US Adult CF Association Scholarship