Monday, December 20, 2010

Good news from Cholesterol Central


My numbers went from 223 to 185, which is a 17% improvement. In other words, I don't have to go on cholesterol meds at this time. Very exciting!!!

I hope all of you are well.

Andy

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good news


All of my numbers were up: My FEV1 and FVC were up 3% and 12% respectively. FVC is Forced Vital Capacity and is the volume of air that can forcibly be blown out after full inspiration, measured in liters. FVC is the most basic maneuver in spirometry tests. FEV1 is the Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second and is the most important test that a doctor looks at. My FVC is up from 89% to 101% (which means I'm essentially normal compared to people without CF) and my FEV1 went from 84% to 87% which is the highest it has been in some time. I won't get the cholesterol test results for another week but I ended up only having to get one vial taken this time. My weight went from 197 pounds last time to 184 pounds. The doctors were really thrilled with my progress. Thanks for listening. Have a nice weekend.

Andy

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tomorrow - Tests, tests and more tests...



This week is extremely busy. Tuesday I had a one hour speech I had to give to a group of CEOs about my foundation. I think it went pretty well. The reviews were very favorable. I met with George, my therapist, on Wednesday and he said I was doing well. We mostly talked about my depression from losing one of my best friends. He recommended some books for me. Tonight I have a meeting for my emotional issues. I'm looking forward to seeing the guys.

Tomorrow is going to be the toughest though. I have to begin fasting at 11pm tonight and go in for my 3-hour glucose test (16 vials of blood will be taken and I have to drink this awful orange drink that is like a flat version of Sunkist) at 7:30am tomorrow and I have a doctor's appointment at 8:30 along with my Pulmonary Function tests and then I have another vial of blood taken before I can finally eat around 10am. That same night I have my company party (which I look forward to escorting my beautiful wife there) and a birthday party to attend. It's safe to say I'll sleep in on Saturday. At least I'm done with Tobi. I finished Sunday night.

It is so cold right now that my fingers are frost-bitten. The things I hate most about winter are that my health gets worse, the days get shorter and it seems like all of the people I have lost in my life all died around this time (Jon Barkan, my sister Wendy who I didn't get to even meet and now my close friend Rusty Sneiderman).

I've felt a bit depressed lately but I can't put my finger on it. Obviously I know that losing Rusty is a big part of that. I just feel overwhelmed and I don't look forward to tomorrows as much as I seem to during the spring, summer and fall.

There is not that much else going on. I slipped on the ice this morning but no major injuries. I am looking forward to showing the doctors how much weight I've lost and how much better shape I am in. I continue to stay between 182 and 184 pounds. I also continue to increase the weight on my workouts. I decided to show the following 2 pictures on this blog. The bottom picture shows how skinny I was (a result of CF) when I had a picture with Braves players' Dale Murphy and Bruce Benedict and the top picture shows how much I've filled out thanks to new treatments and hard work as I'm with current Brave Chipper Jones (as well as my family).

Andrea and the kids are doing well. Ethan just got over a virus but he's feeling better. Avery talks more like an adult everyday. It seems as she matures, I grow more immature so we should be the same age in about 8 years.

Please check out Raw Denim on Facebook. My sister has done a great job with the story.
I hope everyone is doing ok. Please stay safe this holiday season.

Andy

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting stronger...



As far as health goes, I am still working hard. As far as my emotional health goes, I'm feeling pretty well. I still think about Rusty but I have been able to separate it and focus on my own mission to get stronger. I continue to go to meetings, recently reached my first year of full sobriety and will soon be sponsoring my own sponsee.

I continue to maintain my weight between 182 and 185 pounds. I'm currently at 182 pounds which is 15 pounds lighter than my weight back in September. I have enclosed a picture of me at 197 with my beautiful wife at the beach and a picture of me today 15 pounds lighter.

I don't drink sodas anymore except on rare occasions and I've cut my sweets down considerably. It helps also that whenever I eat a Twizzler in front of Ethan, he says "Some?" and I have to give him a Twizzler, usually mine. So I'm not only contributing to my cavities, I have to worry about his teeth too.

I also continue to take fish oils twice a day. I will be taking my glucose test next week to determine if I need to go on cholesterol drugs. The glucose test is the one where I have to starve from about 10pm the night before and can't eat till about noon the following day. Meanwhile the nurses take about 14 vials of my blood to see if I have CF-related diabetes as well as high cholesterol. I'm sorry but if you take 14 vials of my blood and I'm still alive, I should get a standing ovation from the staff.

I think I've done everything I can to improve my health so I'm hoping that my cholesterol is down. I've also increased my weightlifting lately because I feel the need to overachieve right now. I just feel like I really want to push myself. I haven't done that with weights in quite a while. Here are the changes I have made:

CURLS: Instead of lifting 20 pound weights for 3 sets of 20, 16 and 12, I now do the same amount of sets and reps but I do them with 30 pound dumbells.

SHOULDERS AND BACK: Instead of lifting 100 pounds for 3 sets of 20, 16 and 12, I now do the same amount of sets and reps but I lift 160, then 170 and then 180 pounds respectively.

CHEST: Instead of working out primarily on the machine, I'm now using the flat bench. I was lifting 120 pounds on the machine for 3 sets of 20, 16 and 12. Now I'm doing 200 pounds for 20, 16 and 12 reps.

CARDIO: Instead of just running in place and doing jumping jacks or jumping rope, I've now added the punching bag to the mix. I do about 10 to 15 minutes on the bag every other day.

ABS: I haven't changed my ab workout much. I am looking for other exercises if anyone knows some good ones other than crunches and situps.

LEGS: I've gone from lifting 100 pounds with my legs to doubling the weight to 200 pounds. Again, I do 20, 16 and 12.

I have other exercises that I do per body part but those are just examples of my biggest changes.

Every day, I do 5 sets of one body part, 5 sets of another and 3 sets of either cardio or abs or a combination of the two.

I can definitely feel a change in my strength after just a few weeks. I hope to continue to keep off the weight and add some muscle over the next few months.

Add this to about 3 to 4 hours of therapy, a full-time job and two rambuncious kids and it's a pretty busy day.

Only four more days of Tobi so it will be nice to finish that. I call myself the Nebulizer driver as I actually do my TOBI on my way to work which is perfectly legal but I must look like some guy who has taken smoking to a new level.

I hope all of you are well. Never give up.

Best Wishes,

Andy

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

FOR JUSTICE!


First off, thank you to everyone expressing your condolences. I have to admit I feel selfish because I know there are others who hurt more than me because Rusty was a wonderful husband, father, son and brother not to mention a best friend to so many. I can't really compare my feelings to others. I just know it hurts not having Rusty around, but I'm starting to open up a little about it.

I can only encourage those who knew him to send any potentially valid tips or e-mails to the Dunwoody police. I have left them a message recently. I believe it takes about 2 weeks to get a response as they must be receiving a lot of tips.

I think all of us who loved Rusty should call ourselves FOR JUSTICE, an acronym I came up with for Friends Of Rusty Joining Up So That Information Can Emerge. By giving any tips to the police and helping to try to find the perpetrator(s), you are an active member of For Justice. Justice is all I want; Rusty's family deserves that outcome.

With all of the tragedies surrounding me lately, I have really had to lean on my family. Andrea has been there for me and I love her very much. I know this tragedy has been just as difficult on her as she loved Rusty and of course loves his Andrea as do I. The kids, well, they do something new every day. Ethan is talking more than ever. The other day his Uncle Alistair was in town and we went upstairs and Alistair asked him which room was his. Ethan said Avery's room and pointed the other way and then pointed at his floor and said Ethan's room. Whenever he does something wrong now, he says "Sorry, mommy. Sorry, daddy. Sorry, Avery." Then he repeats the wrong but I guess at least he's polite. Avery (picture enclosed), well, here's our funny story from a few weeks ago.

So Avery and I had a daddy-daughter day the other day and I took her bowling. After we played 4 games, we went to the arcade and decided to play the crane game. After I tried to win her a stuffed animal and failed about 10 times, Avery said she wanted to try. "Okay, sweetie," I laughed. The claw was barely even closing and I knew it was set up so no one could win. She tried three times and did not come close and then as if I was Mr. Myagi and she was Daniel LaRusso squeezing the fly with chopsticks, her claw grabbed the pink monkey at the bottom of the pile which should be physically impossible to reach. Apparently the animal's thread got stuck on the claw. The problem is that we couldn't get the animal off the claw. Since no one at the bowling alley was available to help us even after I asked several times, I decided to do it myself. After about 25 shakes and about 10 attempts to tilt the machine, the pink monkey finally fell off the claw and Avery got to take it home. I was so proud of her...until we got home. Here was her exact explanation to mommy as she walked in looking fresh as a daisy and I was sweating profusely after nearly separating a shoulder on the crane machine.

"Mommy, I won the pink monkey by myself and daddy didn't win anything." Not exactly a crowning achievement when your 4 year old can claim victory over her dad. I'm sure it will be one in a million times daddy will be proven wrong by his little girl.

I hope everyone is well. Let's continue to fight "FOR JUSTICE!"

Andy

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rusty Sneiderman - one in a million!



As a speaker, the one comment I never wanted to hear was "You seemed a bit rusty." I heard it a few times during my Toastmasters speeches. They critiqued my grammar and I was fine. They commented on how many times I said "um..." and I could deal with that. They even said they didn't understand the point of my speech and I could handle that, but if I heard, "You seemed a bit rusty," I got really frustrated. To me it meant that people didn't think I wasn't working at my craft and I knew I worked hard when it came to my passion for public speaking.

Lately, my passion for motivational speaking has diminished due to my battle with clinical depression. Through the years, there have been two people who really pushed me to make my speaking more of a priority. One was my father, the other was Russell J. Sneiderman. I, like pretty much all of his friends, called him Rusty.

Andrea and I met Rusty, his wife Andrea and their kids Sophia and Ian at a friend's party. Soon afterward, we went to Gwinnett Braves games together, went to their lake house on several occasions and took in some Atlanta Braves games together. As our couple friendship developed, the Andreas (Rusty and I had to use the terms "My Andrea" or "Your Andrea" to avoid confusion) became even closer as did Rusty and myself.

Rusty and I talked pretty regularly. Sometimes we talked while our wives were with the kids. Rusty once told me that it was nice to be friends with a couple both he and his wife liked individually. Often we had lunch together because we both worked in Duluth. Each time a lunch with Rusty concluded, he'd ask me, "Now how can I help you to be more of a success." I remember the first time he came to dinner and he said he wanted to repay us for making the meal. So what did he do? He went outside and fixed our gutter. That's when I knew I found a one-in-a-million type friend. I also realized if we wanted the pilot light fixed and the leaks in our sky lights sealed up, we better keep providing food for Rusty.

Rusty was a big fan of mine for some reason. He told me that I inspired him and he told my parents that he loved me and would do whatever I wanted to help make Wish for Wendy a success. Those weren't just words. Rusty was a doer. He believed in me and in turn I believed in him. Rusty was always hungry for success. He wanted to make a difference.

Rusty played on the only two foundation teams we've ever had at Wish for Wendy and agreed to take on the heavy responsibility of being our sponsorship chairman this year. He came up with some great ideas and helped us find several new corporate sponsors. He's a big reason why we eclipsed the million dollar mark this year.

Rusty had an amazing personality and sense of humor. He was known for making fun of his athletic activity though he was no slouch as he proved on the softball field. He once bought a Wii FIT and said after he took the fitness test that the Wii told him that his fitness was equal to that of a grossly obese 75 year old. Rusty laughed, "I paid money for a machine to tell me I'm old and fat. No thank you!"

The Wish for Wendy Warriors foundation team in 2010 had a lot of new names but one name stayed the same and that was Rusty Sneiderman. Rusty played softball once a year and this was it. Rusty was always introducing me to people he thought could help further my career and/or my foundation. He got along with every person I introduced him to. My parents really loved him. He and my dad had the same bug about starting a business on their own. They talked frequently. Rusty was looking forward to starting his own business.

Rusty Sneiderman was a brilliant guy. He graduated from Indiana University and later got his MBA from Harvard. He and his wife Andrea, who also graduated from Indiana and got her masters at Harvard, moved down to Atlanta where Rusty worked for JP Morgan.

I'd only known Rusty for two years and I considered him one of my best friends. We talked about growing old and all of the trips we were going to take together. We each had two children, a girl first and then a boy. The kids were almost the same age. We talked about his next business venture and how he was really excited to get started. No matter how much a lunch was full of talking about his business, it always ended with, "Now how I can I help you to be successful."

Rusty wanted to create a plan to help me. The man was starting up a business, was married, was raising two children and had many charitable obligations, yet he always wanted to help me. I wish I'd taken him up on it...at least in the professional sense.

The Thursday prior to Thanksgiving, I was working on a very important chapter for my book, coincidentally another project of mine Rusty frequently asked about. I got a call from my Andrea. She was crying. My first thought was something happened to one of the kids.

"Rusty's been shot," she said. "WHATTTTTT?" I said. "Where, when, how..." Rusty was one of the least violent people I knew; surely this was a mistake. Apparently, a half hour earlier Russell J. Sneiderman walked out of Dunwoody Prep, a preschool in a safe area of Atlanta, after dropping off his son and was shot several times at close range. An hour or so later as I pulled into the hospital's parking lot, I got a called from Andrea. I can only remember the two words that had difficulty leaving her mouth, "He died."

"NO!" I said. No way. Our families were going bowling the following night. Rusty and I had plans for lunch the following week. This couldn't be happening. He and I just talked the other day. I still have a text from him congratulating me on Wish for Wendy which was only about a week and a half earlier. My mom, dad, Andrea and I were at the hospital. Andrea was a real rock for Rusty's Andrea. Many of his Andrea's friends came to support their friend. The prevailing question was "Why? Why would someone do this to such an amazing man?" I can't answer that question. That's the job of the police. I can only say what an honor it was to know Rusty Sneiderman. He wasn't just a friend. He was a best friend. He wasn't just a guy who gave to charity; he contributed to causes to help them to become successful. I'm richer for having known Rusty.

I did a couple of news interviews on Friday with permission from his family. Rusty made everyone around him smile and laugh. He made you feel like you were the center of attention. He made me feel comfortable no matter what the situation. The world is far worse off without Rusty in it.

Rusty always told me that I inspired him. I wish I'd had time to tell him what an amazing friend he was to me. "Rusty, I loved you like a brother. I miss you so much. I will do things in your memory because you believed in me."

It's been a few weeks since Rusty's death and I still can't get him out of my mind. I see his smiling face. I've found videos of him on my phone. I miss his laugh. I miss his humor. I miss him.

On the Sunday following his death I gave the biggest speech in my life. Rusty would have wanted me to do that. The speech was his eulogy. I had to say goodbye to a man that should still be here. I had to say goodbye to a man who will miss out on so many amazing things because of one senseless act. I had to say goodbye to a man who I planned to spend so much time with over the next few decades.

Please pray for Rusty's family and everyone who knew him...we lost an amazing man, father, son, brother, husband and a friend. Rusty, you always had dreams of being a big success and making a difference. Little did you know that you accomplished both missions. You made everyone around you better. That's the greatest success one man can have. I'll miss you, my brother. It was an honor to be friends with you. You were a gift to this world and that gift will never be forgotten. I will honor you, as will many others, till the day we die.

And the next time I give a speech and I get that comment that would once infuriate me, my reaction might be a little different. I can just hear it now.

"Andy, you seemed a bit Rusty."

God, I hope so...I really hope so.

Missing Rusty every moment of everyday,

Andy
p.s. I have posted a sketch of Rusty's killer. Please send this to everyone you know. Justice will prevail! Below is a picture of Rusty with my son Ethan. It's not coincidence that my son looks comfortable with him; everyone did.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tragedy strikes once again



The truth is that death surrounds us all. It's always around us whether it's on the news, a few blocks away from us or even affecting our own family at one time or another. I guess for me lately it just seems that it's a black cloud around me and I can't seem to shake it. As many of you know, my close friend Rusty Sneiderman was shot and killed one week before Thanksgiving. I have enclosed a picture of Rusty holding my son, Ethan as well as a sketch of the killer. Please pass the sketch along so we can find the guy. It's been really tough. I have written an entire piece on Rusty but I want to wait until after a lot of the media exposure has died down before I share it.

Andrea has been an a true rock for both ours and Rusty's family. I don't know where she finds the strength but I am really proud of her. I am having a hard time dealing with my friend's loss. It's been very difficult for me to put into words. I'm sorry if I have not called some of you back. This is how I get sometimes when I'm upset but I promise to make the return calls soon.

Losing my doctor earlier in the year (July), finding out about my friend's five year old son dying (October) and now getting the devastating news about Rusty has been very difficult to take. Not only do I feel awful for the families who were affected, I also can't get the thought of death off my mind. Andrea and I had to explain death to Avery since Rusty's children and Avery and Ethan are very close. She's had several questions over the last few weeks, questions that we've reluctantly had to answer. Some of her questions have included "Do only boys die? Don't people only die when they have gray hair? I'm not going to die, right Daddy?" Try explaining that to a four-year-old.

I appreciate all of you that have written me and Andrea. I also appreciate you keeping Rusty's family as well as the other families recently affected by death in your prayers.

I really miss Rusty. He not only was a good friend but he was always a big supporter of me and this blog. Whenever we'd get together, he'd say "I'd ask you how you've been but I read your blog religiously so I already think I know." He always wanted me to do more in life and take advantage of my public speaking ability. I hope to honor him by persevering in my motivational speaking role.

Writing and reading a eulogy at Rusty's funeral was the one speech I never wanted to make. Rusty and I only knew each other for 2+ years but he was such an amazing friend that it felt like much longer. I only wish I could have gotten more time with him. We had all of these plans and I'm sad that we won't be able to see them through. Over the last week or so since his death, all I can think about is his smiling face. He had such a great personality. I miss calling him or getting lunch with him and laughing at his self-deprecating humor.

The other day I set up my punching bag that I hadn't set up in 6 months. I needed it. All of the horrible things surrounding me lately stirred a lot of anger in me. I had to hit that bag. I have used it four times in the last two days.

It's ironic that none of the three people around me who have died had cystic fibrosis. For a long time, the only friends I lost were due to this disease. It's not that it makes it any easier but it's a fact that I cannot ignore. I have reached out to my sponsor and even my rabbi to talk further about death. I actually have to thank Andrea who called Rabbi Heller and had him meet with me. I'm not the most religious person in the world but I needed to talk someone who is close to God. I needed to talk to him as far as why I questioned God and his decisions. He took away an amazing friend, an extremely bright doctor and a five-year old who had yet to make his mark in the world. I question God's decisions. At the same time, I know the cliché that life is unpredictable and you have to appreciate each day. I'm just sick of being reminded of this fact.

I know that there are things that I should be thankful for. Ethan continues to persevere with his speaking, my father is doing amazing and my family's overall health is pretty good. Negative issues tend to overshadow the positive stuff when I am depressed. Of course, it's close to winter time which is when I usually get physically sick as well as mentally irrational. At least though, I can see that as a problem instead of ignoring these feelings and letting them fester.

I will be continuing all of my emotional therapy by praying daily and seeking support from my group. I also see George every 3 weeks and Dr. Rad every 2 months. That certainly gives me an advantage over past winters when I tried to deal with all of my issues in my own head. To quote a peer who also deals with depression, "When we take advice from our own minds, we are behind enemy lines."

Hanukkah is coming up in less than a week and I look forward to seeing the kids and Andrea smile as we celebrate the eight days of lights. I'm really not sure of Hanukkah's true significance except that my children get to unwrap gifts and play with their new toys. Maybe the significance for me is that it will take my mind off the awful things that have surrounded me over the last few months. I sure hope so.

I wish all of you well and I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season...and please be safe.

Best Wishes,

Andy

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tobi time, Wish is over and looking forward to family


This is always a tough time for me. While I might be handling my depression, it is almost winter, the days are over earlier and I'm back on Tobi for a month. I also know that I have a doctor's appointment 4 weeks from now and will also be taking another glucose test to determine if I need to go on cholesterol drugs.

This morning I started my Tobi treatments so 55 more to go after this morning's episode. I'm still between 183 and 185 pounds which is 12 to 14 pounds lower than I was in mid-September. I have to keep at this weight and continue to take my fish oil in order to try and avoid cholesterol meds. I have enough meds to take.

I think I've found a song that really describes me. It's "Long December" by the Counting Crows. Take a listen. December feels like the longest month for me.

My depression and other emotional issues have been kept in check for over a year now. I don't consider it a milestone though, only a mile marker in the marathon of life. I'll talk about it in my next meeting to encourage others and I'll be sponsoring my own sponsee probably in January.

I'm really excited to reach over a million dollars at Wish. I think when everything is said and done, I'll visit Wendy's grave. The last time I was there was when I first attended Ridgeview for my emotional issues. I want to tell her that I'm going to be okay and that her name is going to lead us to a cure one day. Twelve months ago, I placed a softball on her grave that told her that I would always give it my all for her and that we are going to cure CF in her name. I still believe that. I just hope I'm here to see it. On her birthday this year in December, I'll be placing another softball on her grave. I have enclosed a picture of it on this blog.

All and all, life is good. Andrea and I have some fun plans this week. The kids are continuing to grow. Georgia's football season is mercifully coming to an end. I'm ready to close out Wish for Wendy and focus on even more important things - my family.

I hope all of you are well.

Andy

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wish for Wendy


Well, last weekend was exhausting. On Friday, Andrea and I went to the CF Foundation and loaded the truck essentially by ourselves. It's tough to find volunteers on a Friday afternoon. Then we found out that the Wish for Wendy shirts were still at the press so we had to pick them up Friday night. Then Ethan had a 102 degree fever when he woke up Saturday morning and so we told our nanny not to bring him to the event. I can't tell you how much Andrea did this weekend between helping me with the truck, organizing the signs and dealing with my concern every time a drop of rain hit the pavement over the last week. She was a life saver. Thanks honey!!!

So that was pre-event. The event itself went great. Chipper Jones came out and signed autographs for 25 thrilled donors. My team, the Wish for Wendy Foundation Warriors, won our first fundraising crown and won a game in the tournament. Lego's Outlawz and For Josh met in a rematch of last year's final and this time it was For Josh taking the crown preventing Lego's Outlawz from 4-peating.

Other people who appeared included 10 of the Atlanta Falcon Cheerleaders, The Atlanta Beat women's professional team, Ray Mariner and Star 94, Nick Green, Paul Ossmann, Mark Bowman from MLB.com, Caboose the Clown, Les the Magnificent and the Chick Fil-A cow.

We eclipsed the million dollar mark and will have our final numbers in mid-December after our on-line silent auction and all of the team donations come in.

I'm really excited that we raised so much and that my sister's name will some day be synonymous with a cure.

Thanks to all of you who donated and volunteered to this event.

My sister (picture enclosed) is smiling somewhere. I just know it.

Andy

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or treat



I hope everyone had a great Halloween. Only 5 more days till Wish for Wendy!!! I'm really excited.

I just wanted to share my experience with the kids last night. Avery, Ethan and I went trick-or-treating. Avery kept telling me she was bored. Well, in her words, "Daddy, I'm boring." Ethan kept running as fast as he could and then when we got candy, wanted to eat it on the spot! So I thought this Halloween would be a failure. I was wrong.

We got home and I told Avery that she and I could hand out candy. She wanted to sit outside though and of course Ethan followed. What I thought would be a 5 to 10 minute experiment that would be the equivalent of watching paint dry (Andrea hadn't seen a trick or treater all night) turned out to be anything but that. Avery and I came up with chants. Here they are:

If you can make it up the hill, you can get your fill.
We are fine and dandy, come get some candy, love Ethan, Avery and Andy.
The candy is free so come see me.
Come get your candy. We have candy!
(This was Avery's favorite.)

We ended up with about 120 trick-or-treaters and were out there for about an hour. Ethan even was talking and saying "Happy Halloween" to every trick-or-treater that made the trek up our hill. Both the kids gave out candy and really enjoyed it. It was awesome.

Here are some cute pictures from last night. Costume credit goes to Andrea as she bought these adorable outfits for A & E. I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween. I know Woody and Buzz did.

Andy

Friday, October 29, 2010

The 25 ways that CF contributed to making me the man that I am


The other day I wrote the 25 reasons why I hate CF and I got a lot of positive feedback from it. Now I figured I’d show you the top 25 ways that CF molded me as an individual.

25. Loner – While a lot of you may think I’m a people person, I’m not. I tend to want to do everything on my own and crave time to myself. When I was little, my parents did my therapy which meant closing the door away from other people. When I got the vest, it was just me and I learned to close the door on everyone else. Other than my parents, my sister, my kids and my wife, I don’t feel terribly comfortable doing my therapy around anyone.

24. Feeling Different – I’ve always felt that I was hiding something. When I was younger, it was hiding the fact that I had CF. As I got older, I had to hide my therapy equipment and pills from prospective girlfriends in fear that they would look at me as an alien.

23. Being Competitive – I’m a very competitive person. Maybe that’s because doctors were already gambling against me from the time I was born. I’ve always felt I needed to prove myself to everyone because I wasn’t supposed to live this long.

22. Feeling fortunate to have children – I would not have been able to have children had it not been for In Vitro Fertilization. And I would not have had to go through IVF had I not had cystic fibrosis. The process itself was heart-wrenching for Andrea and I, but the end result has made me feel very lucky to have children. I really try to enjoy each day with them.

21. Being a big fundraiser – If I didn’t have a cause to fight for, I doubt I would have ever started Wish for Wendy. My mother created the Santa Claus House when I was little to help beat CF. I learned a lot from her. She taught me that when it comes to fundraising “You’ll never know unless you ask.”

20. Spirituality – I doubt I’d be as spiritual as I am had CF not taken my sister at a very young age. I still believe she’s out there helping me get through this life.

19. Emily – I probably wouldn’t have Emily in my life had CF not been in my life. First off, I believe my parents only wanted 2 kids so Wendy would have still been here. Secondly, my parents would not have gone through the adoption process if they knew they could have kids without the chance of them having CF. I’m thankful for Emily but sad that I never got to meet Wendy.

18. Depression – I doubt I would have had so many depression issues if it hadn’t been for CF. Doctor’s appointments were always scary. Reading about my life expectancy was disheartening. Growing up before I was ready was not what every child dreams about.

17. Author – I know that my story would put the average reader to sleep had I not had to deal with CF. I can see the title now “I grew up in Doraville in a 2 story house with a Basement.” Not exactly a title that makes you want to rip open a book.

16. Speaking – When I was little, I was very afraid of public speaking ever since a poem reading in 5th grade went horribly wrong. I probably never would have done public speaking again however it was a must if I wanted to tell my tale regarding CF and help others. Now I’ve really learned to excel at the art of motivational speaking. I guess I can thank CF.

15. Things I’ve gotten to do – There’s no way I would have run with the Olympic Torch, met celebrities like Garth Brooks, been a ball boy with the Hawks or even participated as a batboy with the Braves if I didn’t have CF. That’s for sure.

14. Growing up quickly – I definitely would not have matured as quickly as I did had it not been for CF. When I was a kid, my friends were worried about having girlfriends, winning at sports and doing homework. While those three topics certainly crossed my mind, my main concern was my health and not having to go on antibiotics.

13. Swallowing pills – I take pills at a record pace. If pill-taking was an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of pill-taking. I can take 10 pills in about 20 seconds going one by one. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t think I would have had this gift without CF.

12. Not taking life for granted – The old cliché is “Don’t take life for granted.” Well, most people do for a majority of their life. That’s not the case for someone born with a terminal illness. Every day is a battle and most every day is a struggle, but if you are breathing by night’s end, then you have succeeded. That’s also why I lift weights and take care of my body like I do. I wouldn’t be in this kind of shape if I didn’t have a terminal disease breathing down my neck.

11. Reading backwards - I would not be able to read any word backwards without CF. That strange habit is kind of my secret trick. I can read any word backwards in seconds. I credit this to the days when I was in high school and just started using my vest. I was bored and couldn’t find anything else to do so I learned to read backwards and after a while I just got really good at it.

10. Meeting Mrs. “RIGHT!” – You learn with a terminal disease how to find the “right” person to spend your life with. I certainly did. Andrea did not judge me for the disease I had. She accepted it and accepted the fact that things were not always going to come easy. She is an amazing woman.

9. Not meeting other people with CF – If I didn’t have CF, I would certainly have met more people with CF in person. Unfortunately, having the disease means that cross-contamination is a big risk in meeting others with the disease. It’s another reason CF can make you feel like a loner.

8. My iguana - This is a funny one but there is no way I’d have an iguana in college named CF Phlegmington. That was a name my friend Aaron came up with so that I didn’t take CF so seriously. Unfortunately I didn’t take very good care of the iguana and my mom ended up giving him away. There’s no truth to the rumor that the little guy once used my vest, but Aaron did.

7. Addiction – While I blame only myself for my addiction problems, certainly some of my symptoms could be caused by CF. As an addict, I always want to do more. Some of that comes from having CF and always wanting to prove myself more.

6. Starting a foundation – If I didn’t have CF, I doubt I’d care much about awareness for the disease. Since I do and since my sister died from it, it is a passion of mine to spread awareness about the disease. That’s why we started the Wish for Wendy Foundation.

5. The kinship with my son – I don’t think I’d feel as close to Ethan as I do without having CF. Ethan had a brain infarct at birth and the doctors were very pessimistic about our young son. Having CF though, I knew that it was possible to defy the odds. My son is a daddy’s boy today and I believe he feels that kinship too. We both proved our doctors wrong.

4. My knowledge of CF and my politics – I definitely would be like the majority of the planet and had no idea what cystic fibrosis was if I didn’t have the disease. I also wouldn’t be voting for aggressive stem cell research if I didn’t have a disease to worry about. However now that I have a wife with MS and a son who had an infarct, it wouldn’t matter if I had CF. I am in favor of stem cell research.

3. My parents – I definitely would not have appreciated my parents as much if I didn’t have CF. My parents administered my postural drainage from the time I was an infant until 10th grade when I got the vest. That required a half hour a day of hitting my back, sides and front so the phlegm in my lungs would loosen. I’m sure there were days that they actually enjoyed hitting me though as I was kind of a smart ass. Hard to believe I’m sure.

2. Can’t you see that I can fight it but remember only strong individuals survive – I definitely wouldn’t use that line or even come up with that line if I didn’t have CF. The phrase is actually an acronym. Take the first letter from each word and it spells out two words – cystic fibrosis.

1. Getting to know many of you – I would not know others who have associations to CF or have the friends I have from Wish for Wendy if I didn’t have cystic fibrosis. I’m pretty grateful to have you in my life. I’ve learned a lot from you. I’m certainly better for knowing you.

Do I owe cystic fibrosis my gratitude for this list of 25? Nah, but I do want the disease to know that I CAN find 25 things to be thankful for despite having a life-threatening disease. “If a man brushes everything aside that is negative, greatness can flourish!” That’s a self-created quote as well and another acronym. I’ll let you figure it out.

Have a good one!

Andy

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wish for Wendy is only 10 days away!


Well, we are closing on a million at Wish for Wendy. We had another meeting last night and everything is coming together. We have a lot of sponsors involved and some great guests at the event including: The Atlanta Falcon Cheerleaders, Caboose the Clown, Monkey Joe, The Chick Fil-A Cow, EEP Events (our DJ) and Star 94 who will do a 3-hour remote from the event. Also If you live in Atlanta, tune in as they are airing several spots for us. I'm also looking forward to the person(s) throwing out the first pitch. It's going to be very emotional. There will be a presentation made. You don't want to miss it. This usually takes place around 9:45 am. We are also pursuing a few celebrities and one of them is very big. I don't know that we'll get him but we are continuing to try.

A Wish for Wendy has raised about $980,000 overall as we speak. That means we are very close to hitting the magic number. I'm looking forward to seeing my cousin Barrett and my Aunt Loretta as they are flying in for the event.

As far as how I'm doing, I am still learning what it is to be an addict though I've probably unknowingly been one for most of my life. I have learned that I not only have to be cautious but attentive when it comes to dealing with my issues. I have to be smart and not emotional. I have to avoid justifying and learn to recognize. Being an addict means accepting that I will always be a recovering addict and never a "recovered" addict because addictions are never gone for good.

Along this course, I have met several other people dealing with addiction and/or depression. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one. We all have different ways to get better but as long as they give us the same healthy outcome, that's certainly ok.

I have been taking fish oil gel capsules lately and I feel a lot more alert lately. My mind is thinking better and I feel a lot more awake during the day. It's quite incredible. I've read that it lowers cholesterol too. I've also been eating more oatmeal and trying to cut out cheese, sodas and other high cholesterol products. To date, I have gone from 197 pounds on September 10th which is when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol to 183 pounds on October 27th which is a 14 pound weight loss in about 7 weeks. I don't plan to lose any more weight. I also want to continue to eat foods that are low in cholesterol. I go back for my glucose test in a month and I want a lower cholesterol score so I don't have to go on cholesterol meds.

Funny moment of the week:

I got home Monday last week and put my head on the pillow. I looked over at Avery and just closed my eyes and took a deep breath. She then said to me:

"Long day, huh?"

I responded a bit in shock as to how mature she sounded, "Yeah."

"Me too, daddy. I had school all day."


I swear to you my daughter gains a few years every week. She passed my maturity level months ago (That's not saying much as Ethan passed it yesterday). I look forward to having some daddy-daughter time this weekend. Maybe we'll go to Malibu. Maybe we'll hit the park. At the pace she's learning, maybe she can do my taxes while we play putt-putt.

I wish everyone a good weekend. Don't forget our 11 for 11 at Wish for Wendy. It's sure to be a big hit. You have a chance to win 2 airline tickets to anywhere in the continental US!

Thanks,

Andy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rough week


It's been a rough last 7 days. As I continue making my amends, I finally decided to e-mail the babysitter who beat me up when I was a kid. The letter wasn't the easy part but hitting "send" was even harder. My therapist told me I could write the note and then trash it and just never send it but that seemed cowardly to me. This guy beat the absolute crap out of me and scared me to death as a kid. I won't stand for that anymore. I figured if anything I owed it to Andy Lipman the little kid who feared for his life. Needless to say, I have e-mailed him and will hopefully get a response.

Last Friday, I got some very disheartening news. A friend of mine who I buy from at work and who talks about family every time we meet had something horrible happen. This is the guy who always asks about your family before he talks about anything work-related. He's offered to take my whole family to dinner in the past. Well, about 10 days ago, his son was killed in a freak home accident. His son was only 5. It's horrible and I can't stop thinking about John and I can't stop thinking about my kids and how delicate life truly is. That's why I enclosed a picture of my babies. They are literally all I can think about since I got the news from John.

My year of sobriety is around the corner and I was thinking what I've learned through the process. Here is my list.

1) Just because you are taking the steps to get better, doesn't mean you'll get better.
2) No one is perfect and thinking you have to be perfect is more dangerous than being incredibly imperfect.
3) People aren't necessarily bad because of their actions. Their actions are bad but maybe there's a good person living inside the person whose actions were awful. Maybe that person, with the right help, can not only recover but make the world a better place by helping others who have been through similar issues.
4) It's not easy to be open and honest but it's incredibly worthwhile.
5) Asking for help doesn't make you weak. Never asking for help when you definitely need it is a sign of weakness in my opinion.
6) No matter how bad you think your problems are, there are many people who have encountered worse.
7) It's not hard to find motivation when you have a beautiful family to look at every day.
8) It's not helpful to be hard on yourself. It makes everything worse for you and everyone around you.
9) Being humbled every now and then is a pretty good cure for an addict.
10) Family is priority. While we all say that, sometimes you (or at least I) didn't make my family the priority I should have. That's never happening again.

I'm doing pretty well healthwise. My softball team won again last night. We are now 5-0. Andrea and the kids have been under the weather but thankfully all of them are coming out of it. I am currently working on 4 projects at work that could add significant savings for our company. We have a Wish for Wendy meeting tonight and Emily's birthday is tomorrow night (Don't forget her store Raw Denim!!!). Dad is doing well and adjusting to being back home.

Please pray for my friend John. My heart still aches for him and his family.

Best Wishes,

Andy
Thanks for listening.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The top 25 things I hate about CF


The 25 things that I despise about having CF.

25. Therapy - Doing my vest and aerosol therapies everyday and losing a couple of hours that I could spend with my wife and children. When I was little, it always made me feel different and alone because I was not allowed to do certain things or go to certain places.

24. Coughing - I hate coughing. I feel like everyone looks at me as if I'm sick and contagious. And quite honestly if you have a coughing attack, it can become really painful.

23. Taking pills - Just once, I'd like the only things I have to remember for a meal to be my fork and knife. Having to remember pills and take them in front of people tends to make every meal an ordeal and it can be quite uncomfortable as well.

22. Life expectancy - I hate having a life expectancy. When I was born, it was 12. When I was 7, it was 25. Now it's 37. Who cares? No one knows their median life expectancy. Life is full of surprises.

21. Going to the doctor - Going to the doctor at least a half dozen times a year is not fun especially when you are going for something life-threatening.

20. Having to go through IVF to have our children - I wish we could have done it the easier, more fun way. I'm sure Andrea agrees there.

19. CF makes your bowels smellier - As if it's not bad enough that it limits having children and forces you to take pills and do treatments, it also makes your trips to the restroom an uncomfortable experience.

18. Cancer - CF makes it more likely that I can have certain types of cancer. I believe I have enough life-threatening things, but thank you.

17. Colds - I can't get near anyone who is sick or who smokes. Bars are pretty much out of the question because of the smoke. If I catch a cold, it doesn't last a couple of days. Sometimes it can last weeks and worst case it can cause a major infection.

16. IV antibiotics - I am lucky to have only done them once but having needles stuck in your arm and having nurses poke and prod me for weeks is not exactly my fantasy.

15. No Marketing Plan - There isn't much recognition of the disease. Everyone knows about cancer, AIDS and heart disease but CF kind of falls by the wasteside. We need more spokespersons.

14. Death of Peers - I have lost a lot of friends who have the disease that I know through the Web.

13. Alienation - I can't be around others with the same disease due to the possibility of spreading bacterial infections. Talk about feeling alone.

12. Explanation - Having to explain it to people. It's not always easy to explain. Plus it makes me feel like a freak because I have all of these problems.

11. Having to explain it to my kids - How do you explain to your children that you have a life-threatening disease? How do you tell them that their dad isn't expected to be here as long as most dads? If you know, please tell me because I have no idea. I'm also worried that my kids will need to grow up a lot faster than their peers because of my disease.

10. Lab Rat - Asked to be a part of all of these case studies and experiments. I'm not a lab rat. I'm a person. I have people tell me you're a perfect candidate for this because of these issues that you have. Do they realize that's not exactly a way to make me feel good?

9. Acronyms - I've found myself coming up with Acronyms for CF like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation did with Cure Found. So far I have "Can Fight, Can Function, Can't Fail, Cape Fear (I like horror movies), and Can Fundraise! It's annoying but I can't stop.

8. Depression and other mental issues - I'm not letting CF take all of the blame for my problems but there is a good portion that I can credit to growing up with this disease and being scared and unsure of how to deal.

7. Fear - I fear dying before my children grow up. I fear leaving Andrea without a husband. I fear getting sick.

6. CF Related Diabetes - or CFRD - it's a type of CF Diabetes that is very common. That's why I have a glucose test every year.

5. I'm the patient - CF is still known as a young person's disease so sometimes when I get X-rays they ask where the patient is and they ask if it's my son.

4. Where's the Cure - I believe there will be a cure one day but I've been told a cure could be 7 to 10 years away for the last 25 years. It makes the doctors seem like the boy who cried wolf.

3. Knowing that a lung transplant is a good possibility - It's scary to think that there's a pretty good chance I could get a lung transplant. I'm scared of having that surgery as it can be fatal. I'm scared of feeling so sick that a transplant will seem like a relief. I'm scared I'll be carrying oxygen around one day.

2. Knowing that my kids will be carriers of this awful disease - I just want it to die and not be carried on. My kids and their spouses will have to be screened before having kids. I wish I could take that worry away from them.

1. Losing Wendy to this damn disease! I would have liked to have an older sister that I could talk about these other 24 concerns with. It's hard to believe that you could never meet someone yet still miss them. That's the case when it comes to my feelings for my big sister. May she rest in peace.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Andy's sports weekend



The Rivalry

Well, it was a semi-good weekend. Andrea and I went to our 10th installment of Georgia-Florida. This wonderful rivalry began in 2001 when Georgia shocked Tennessee on a last-second touchdown in Knoxville. Andrea and I now have a bet where the kids have to wear the shirts of the winning team. Well, this year the Dawgs gave me a 6-4 advantage in the all-time rivaly with a 41-14 triumph over the Vols! Pictures of my beautiful children (even more beautiful in this picture) are enclosed.

The Braves

I'm still crying on the inside. We were there last night as Brooks Conrad made 3 errors to cost the Braves a victory but I don't blame that BC as much as I do the other BC! Bobby Cox should have never had him in there and should have never taken out our new closer, Craig Kimbrell. I know players love Cox because he's loyal but I claim he's loyal to a MAJOR fault. He gives guys too many chances. Conrad had about 6 errors in his last 6 games yet Cox still left him in there. It was frustrating to watch as ball after ball went through Brooks' glove. What made things worse is we were stuck in the Turner Field parking lot for about 90 minutes as the parking attendants tried to figure out how to let cars out one at a time. Talk about frustrating!

Emily got to sit in the Suntrust seats and was a few seats over from Dr. J, President Jimmy Carter and Ted Turner. We also saw Jason Bateman on the Jumbotron as he was there filming a movie. Maybe he can do the Brooks Conrad story as another project.

The Falcons

I'm really proud of the Falcons. We're now 4-1 and on the path towards a high seed in the NFC playoffs. The Birds won a big road game in Cleveland yesterday. In the past, we would have lost a game like this but we hung tough and got the victory.

That was the weekend. I hope all of you had a good weekend. If you're interested in donating to Wish for Wendy and supporting my Wish page, please go to http://www.cff.org/LWC/AndyLipman14477. Thanks.

Andy

Friday, October 8, 2010

Today's Health Update


Well, I went to the doctor on Wednesday and found out my cholesterol was indeed high but they'll give me 4 more months to lower it. I have been on a diet for four weeks and actually weighed myself this morning and realized I've lost 10 of the 12 pounds I set as a goal by the middle of this month. I've completely cut out sodas and have lowered my sugar intake quite a bit. I still have my Twizzlers from time to time but much less of them. I finished Tobi yesterday. I was thrilled about that. That's two more hours of my time per day that I can now spend with Andrea and the kids.

I was going through my pill bottles this morning and I found one bottle that still has Dr. Wolfenden's name on it because she put in the prescription. It's going to be sad when her name disappears from future prescriptions. I miss her.

I had an addiction meeting last night. It went really well. I had a friend join me who was going through something similar to what I was going through nearly a year ago. I hope he got a lot out of it. I also completed my 12 steps yesterday. I was really excited. I'm not ready to sponsor yet. I want to wait till after Wish for Wendy but also I want to work on things to continue to improve my family life first. Family is my number one priority.

This cold weather of late only reminds me that winter is near. The days will be shorter and the opportunities to go outside will lessen. I also realize that my health is always at risk the colder it gets. I will keep it together this time though as I realize how important my sobriety is to keeping my loved ones happy.

A Wish for Wendy is going well. We are close to $950,000 which means we are getting closer to $1 million. We also have a few celebrities that have committed. I'll announce the entire group when we get them. If you want to donate under my name for our cause, please go to http://www.cff.org/LWC/dsp_DonationPage.cfm?idEvent=14477&idUser=348812. Thanks.

Tonight we are celebrating my dad and mom's return and my dad's good health. He's really happy to be home. We are really excited to have the whole family back together again. I have included a picture of dad, or as Andrea calls him "Andy Lipman in 30 years" because of our clone-like looks.

I stayed up to watch the Braves game last night. Here is my analysis. Conrad needs to be a pinch-hitter only. Glaus deserves a shot at third. Lincecum is a heck of a pitcher. The announcers were not that good but I still prefer TBS to Fox. Game 2 is today so hopefully the Braves will show up.

Tomorrow we head to Athens for Georgia-Tennessee or what some people will probably call it "The Toilet Bowl." Our program has regressed the last few years so much so that we don't get the primetime game anymore and the proof is the announcing crew that makes me cringe every Saturday. Sunday I have Avery's soccer game, then my friend Seth's son's bris. Then the day will close with Andrea, myself, Emily and my dad going to the Braves playoff game. This will be Andrea's first playoff game so I'm excited that she gets to go. Needless to say, this weekend is jam-packed with stuff to do.

I hope everyone else is well. Keep up the fight. Live your dreams and love your life.

Best Wishes,

Andy

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dad's Home, Tobi's almost done, the Braves made the playoffs!

Here's what is going on with me.

Tobi

It's Tuesday and I only have 2 days of Tobi left. I'm so ready to take that 2 hours of therapy out of my day. I have to do Tobi every other month as it is one of the prime drugs to keep pseudomonas away.

More about my speech

I recently was told by another Kiwanis club member that my speech last month was the first in his 27 years at the club that he ever remembered seeing a standing ovation. That was really nice to hear.

Life is busy

Well, the last 7 days have been interesting and especially busy. Last Thursday I had my addiction meeting. It went really well. One of the guys said something that really hit me. He said "You can't help having your addiction, but you can help being a victim of it." I love that line and it's true. When I think of my addiction and how down I was, I thought of the song from Creed called "I've created my own prison." That's what I did. By having more faith in God and myself, I believe I'm destroying that prison and living a healthy life. I want to apply my new coping skills to being a good daddy and husband. These are the two most important roles I've ever had.

Zenpep

I started Zenpep which is a drug that replaces my Pancrease MT-16. This may sound like no big deal to you but I'd been taking Pancrease for over 30 years so this change had me worried. Pancrease is no longer approved by the FDA so that's why it is no longer available. Zenpep helps me digest food. Two days in and no side effects.

Seeing Family

On Friday, Andrea and I went to one of my cousins' bar mitzvahs. I think he's my cousin twice removed or once removed or he was put on probation and now he's allowed to be my cousin again. Anyway, it was nice. It was at the synagogue I grew up in. We met some really cool people and got to hang out with some family that I hadn't seen in years. I even learned that the Lipman family is cursed with people with no direction sense. I was wondering where I got that wonderful trait.

The Braves

On Saturday, Andrea, myself, Emily and a friend of hers went to Bobby Cox day. It was pretty cool to see all of the past players that were there. We actually sat near the suite where most of the players hung out during the game so I got to talk to Fred McGriff briefly. The Braves got crushed so it was another horrible sports day for me as my Dawgs lost to Colorado later that night.

Sunday made up for the bad sports day. After Avery's soccer game, I went home to watch the Braves clinch the wildcard and the Falcons win a last second nailbiter. I can't wait to go to the first playoff game Sunday night. Hopefully we won't be down 2-0 by that point.

Dad


Mom and Dad are coming home tonight. I'm so happy they are back. Dad is doing great. We had a Wish for Wendy meeting at my house tonight. Wednesday, Andrea is playing tennis so I have the kids. Thursday I have my meeting. Friday, we are going to dinner with my dad to celebrate his return. Saturday Andrea and I are going to our rivalry game. This will be our 10th consecutive year going to Tennessee-Georgia. I believe I lead the all-time series but it's close as the Dawgs have choked recently. We have a deal that our kids get to wear the winning team's outfits the following day. I will enclose a picture next week HOPEFULLY of the kids wearing red and black. Sunday we are going to the Braves playoff game. It's been about 6 years since a playoff game was played at Turner Field. I hope the crowd is as revved up as I am.

Yesterday my softball team won 10-5 and moved to 3-0. I had a hit but didn't do much else. The team is having fun though and I think we have a real shot to compete for a title if everyone stays healthy. It was cool to see my sister come out and cheer us on. She might just be our good luck charm.

I met with my sponsor today and completed Step 10 and began Step 11. I will be working on Step 11 next week and then turning in my work to my sponsor...and then we will work on the 12th and final step of my recovery process. I'm excited to complete this program. I'm also looking forward to a year of addiction sobriety.

I am going to the doctor tomorrow morning to have my cholesterol looked at. It was high a few weeks ago so I will probably be on more meds. I went to my dietician and got some facts about lowering cholesterol and continue to lose weight by giving up most sodas and some candy. I've gone from 197 three weeks ago to 188. The goal is 185 within 4 weeks. We'll see.

Have a great day!

Andy

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life after Disney


Disney

Well this past week we took the kids to Disney. I tell you what. Taking 2 small kids to Disney World is no small feat. First, they are off schedule which means they are CRAZY!!! Second, you have to watch their every move. Third, you have to tell them "no" every five minutes when you pass an ice cream parlor or a souvenir stand. It was fun though and it was awesome to see their reactions to the characters and the rides. Ethan got to meet Buzz Lightyear and Avery got to meet Mary Poppins among others. Andrea and I were exhausted upon returning late Saturday night but it was worth it. Before we arrived at Disney, we stopped at my Nana's house for a night. It was the first time that the kids had been there and Nana was so excited. She had so many toys that Geoffrey the Giraffe was jealous. We also saw Andrea's mom and her husband. The kids love them especially Avery. It was nice to see family. The older you get, the more you appreciate your loved ones. At least that's what I've found.

Today's picture

Enclosed is a picture of the kids in their Halloween costumes. Apparently Disney doesn't disappear just because I left Orlando.


Health

I'm still on Tobi. I believe this is week 3 of 4. It's getting a bit exhausting especially since I was up till 1 a.m. every night at Disney finishing up my treatments. It's like being on Pacific Coast Time but having to arrange your schedule around East Coast time as I still have to work out, do my therapy and be at work in the morning. Still I got some pretty good health news. My sputum culture was normal and my numbers were all pretty good except my cholesteral which was quite high. That's all I need is more medicine. I'll see my doctor and see what I need to do to treat this. I've also lost about 7 pounds on my diet so far. It's been 2.5 weeks. My goal is to lose 12 pounds in 4 weeks so we'll see.

Softball

My softball team is now 2-0 as we blew out yet another opponent last week 18-9. I went 4 for 4 and drove in several runs and played a solid first base. We have a former minor league player from the Dodgers organization throwing it 90mph to me at SS and I'm making the plays so I'm thrilled with that.

Braves

The Braves are 1.5 games up in the wild card race so it's coming down to the final week. Andrea and I are going Saturday. Maybe that will be the clincher. Either way, it's Bobby Cox day and I'm ready to say "Bon Voyage!" I appreciate what he's done for the organization but I think his managing skills have definitely declined over the last decade. It will be nice to get some new blood in here.

Falcons

I'm really proud of my Falcons. Great win against the Saints the other day. Matt Ryan is my QB. I know Vick is having a great year but Ryan is going to win us a Super Bowl in the next 5 years. You can take that to the bank.

Soccer

Avery's soccer team is 1-1 in our first 2 games. The kids have a great time and I'm having fun coaching them. I ordered trading cards of my soccer player if anyone is interested in a definite collector's piece.

My depression

I saw my therapist this week and agreed that since it's fall and almost winter that I will be seeing him more often. This is the time of year where I get depressed. I already feel a hint of it. I've also made some more discoveries about my youth that have caused me to really think hard about how much I really want to know about my past. I've missed my addiction meetings the last 2 weeks due to travel and seeing friends and I look forward to returning on Thursday. These meetings have become part of my life. The phone calls to friends from my group have also become a necessity. I spoke to several of these friends the last few days. My sponsor and I completed Step 9 on Wednesday which has been a grueling step. I will be working on Step 10 next week. That is basically continuing to do the right things and react the right way to things. I've made amends to a few people but I have several more amends to go.

Conclusion

Wish for Wendy is going well. We are having a lot of volunteers sign up and several new sponsors are on board thanks to Rusty Sneiderman our sponsorship chairman. Our goal is to hit $1 million cumulative over the past 11 years. I believe we're around $950 thousand right now. I'm excited that my parents are coming home next week. I miss them very much. My dad is doing great and can't wait to get home. Thanks to all of you who have asked about him. Andrea and the kids are well. Andrea starts her tennis matches again soon. I look forward to hearing about her kick-butt performances.

Well, that's it. I'll try to update my blog once a week for now on. Have a great week everyone. I hope all of you are healthy and happy.

Best Wishes,

Andy

Friday, September 17, 2010

Return of the Speaker


It had been over a year since my last big talk. I wasn't that nervous to get back out there. I was ready. I was speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Northside Atlanta over by the High Museum. There were about 25 people there. Most of them were between 65 and 75 years of age. One guy told me as soon as I walked in, "So you're the speaker? You better be good." He wasn't kidding either.

I'd been a pretty good speaker to this point. I don't want it to sound like bragging but I knew that I could do a good job. My last really big speech had probably been at the 11 Alive Community Service Awards about 4 years ago. I enclosed a picture from that night with Atlanta Falcons defensive pro bowler Patrick Kerney.

It was a pretty serious crowd yesterday. I put some brochures and booklets on the table, grabbed some lunch and waited for Joel Isenberg, a friend of my father's, to introduce me.

I did not have any notes. I hadn't practiced. I hadn't given a speech in a year and a half. How would I do?

I began speaking at 1:30 and finished my speech around 5 till 2pm. I took 10 minutes of questions. And when I finished, I got a rousing standing ovation. This one woman who just come back fom a mission in Africa couldn't stop hugging me. She said she didn't know me but was so proud of me. I had one man tell me that he'd been in this club for 30 years and he'd never seen a standing ovation with everyone getting up at the same time and clapping like that. He said he'd heard many people speak in his 70+ years on this earth and he would group me with one other man that he'd heard speak...Harry S. Truman. I was honored that he would put me in that company. I know I have a gift for speaking but I also think my story is really what captures an audience, not necessarily how I tell it.

I got a donation of $50 from the group after shaking everyone's hands afterwards. I felt like a rock star which is dangerous for an addict. You never want to get too high on yourself. I got in my car and stopped for a moment. I said my serenity prayer and got myself to a place of calm.

Joel e-mailed me last night to tell me that the speech was the most inspirational he had seen. I then got a donation on-line from one of the guys in the audience. I got a lot of compliments and was very happy with the response. I guess motivational speaking is what I'm meant to do. This is my talent. When I was young, public speaking was nowhere on my list of careers I'd like to do. I wanted to be a baseball player,a veterinarian, a doctor, a fireman or even a teacher. In 5th grade, I had to memorize a 14-line sonnet and I choked. I couldn't remember a single line. I knew the whole sonnet the night before but I'd totally forgotten it by the time I stood up. Ms. Stansberry gave me a D and asked me to sit down. I was humiliated. I never wanted to get in front of a crowd again. I remember though when that changed.

I was in high school. This was my senior year and everyone was doing reports on diseases that affect this country. My disease was AIDS. One afternoon. my teacher said, "Andy, are you ready to give your presentation?"

"Ummmm...sure," I said, "but can we eat lunch first so I can get something to eat. I'm hungry." We had the choice and the teacher was cool with it. I totally forgot about the presentation. I hadn't done any work for it. Most people spent weeks researching their project. I had less than an hour to put together a 20 minute speech on a disease that I'd barely heard of except for the death of Rock Hudson, a famous Hollywood actor.

I researched for 20 minutes and found very little in our library. AIDS was still not that well known and views about it were different depending on where you looked. Twenty minutes later, I almost went to my teacher and asked for an F, but I knew I needed this class to graduate and this presentation was almost half my grade. I was going to have to wing it. So sadly I made up half of my statistics but I spoke from the heart telling people how tough a disease AIDS was. Looking back, I should have been ashamed for my lack of preparation and misinformation concerning statistics. But that report was half my grade and I had to graduate. The teacher even started to cry. Twenty-five minutes later, I'd given the speech of my life. I'd made up for the 5th grade disaster with an impromptu act that would have made some of the great public speakers cheer. I got an A. The story is something I'm not proud of, but sometimes great things come when you least expect them. It was then that I knew I had this gift. I just never knew how I could use it. I do now. I'll use it to spread awareness and hopefully help us find a cure for CF and save so many people's lives. I'd like to find Ms. Stansberry and have her hear me now.

Today was Yom Kippur, the day of atonement for Jews. I know I have a lot of atoning to do. Yesterday afternoon I finally began Step 9 by contacting a few people who were on my list of people I harmed. Both appreciated my gesture and said the feeling was mutual. It ended on good terms and I felt some relief. My sponsor told me after a few of these responses I was going to feel better about myself. He was right. Still there are more people to contact. There is more closure to receive.

Avery has her first soccer game tomorrow and I'm really excited. I hope the kids have fun in my soccer coaching debut. Andrea has a big tennis match tomorrow. I'll be cheering on my Braves and hoping they can sweep the Mets. We're 1.5 games up pending the SF-Milwaukee game tonight.

I hope everyone has a good night.

Andy

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Morning treatments


Well, since I thought the evening treatment play-by-play was a good idea, now I'm showing you how the morning treatments work while I also discuss another blog topic.

6:00am: I got out of bed, prepared my medications and went to my little workout room which I jokingly call AL (Andy Lipman) Fitness. I hope LA Fitness doesn't sue me. The great thing about the name is that Andrea can work out there too. And Avery. Sorry Ethan.

6:40am: I finished my bicep/tricep workout while I watched season 1 of The Office for about the 200th time. I used to love that show but it kind of jumped the shark when Jim and Pam got married.

6:45am: I did my sinus wash, my sinus spray, my nasal antibiotic and my Xopenex inhaler. I then clean my hands and start my hypertonic saline.


Last night was difficult to write about. It's hard to write about your flaws as a person especially when your life is essentially a book. I used to be so afraid to tell people about myself that I locked myself in my room for days without coming out. Those were my college days, but there are still mornings in which I feel that way. I force myself sometimes to be social. People have a hard time believing that I'm very shy because once I get going I could talk to a fire hydrant. The truth is that I sometimes have to give myself a pep talk before I walk into a big room of people. The irony is that I love public speaking. I've yet to figure that one out. In fact, I have a speech this Friday at a Kiwanis Club in Atlanta near the High Museum. It's my first speech in about a year since I finally started working on my problems.

6:59am: I have started my vest therapy while still being on my hypertonic saline.

I'm a bit lonely right now as Ethan usually joins me in the basement by now. It used to be a pain to have him run around and grab me and throw things at me. Now I realize that I love it. I love having the company sometimes. Therapy I suppose has always been my isolation. Ever since I got the machine, no one really hangs out with me while I do my therapy. Andrea used to offer to hang with me but it's gotten a lot tougher now that we have two kids because she has to listen out for them. My therapy is so loud that it doesn't allow us to hear them. When I say therapy is my isolation, I also mean that by the fact that it makes me different. I've always felt that way. Unless I'm making a speech because people know I have CF, it's difficult to admit that I'm different to the unsuspecting peer. Still, this is all I know. I don't know what it's like to wake up, shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work. I do all of those things but I add about two hours of therapy and medical treatments to that every morning and every night.

Whenever I take a moment to think of all the meds/treatments I do during a day, I have to admit that it's overwhelming. I try to look at it though that there are other people in much more dire circumstances and I should feel fortunate. I also remember that my sister Wendy would have traded with me in a heartbeat. She only got 16 days on this earth. By my count, I'm over 10,000 days. I hated taking pills growing up. My mom used to stick them in oatmeal and make me take them that way. As far as my postural drainage (when my parents hit my back, sides and front before there was a vest machine), I used to wiggle, jump up and annoy my parents because I hated just laying there. Heck, look at me when I do my therapy now. I have to be doing something else like writing a blog or watching TV.

Where is Ethan? Come on buddy. Daddy's ready to be harrassed. He has become such a good talker now. You would never know he had a stroke. When I come home now, he grabs my hand and says "Daddy, look." He shows me something he's been playing with. After about 15 minutes, when I try to go to the bathroom or upstairs to take a breath, he whines "Daddy, uppy!!! Uppy!" He doesn't want me to leave so I pick him up and he hangs out with me. Avery has been a more difficult project for me and I blame that on me. I was not a good father to her during her first couple of years on this earth. I ignored her at times and didn't appreciate the amazing little girl she was turned into. I regret those moments but I've learned that you can't look back. We now have our time together either through daddy-daughter days or just a simple talk when I drive her somewhere. Having my alone time with her is so special. She's definitely got me wrapped around her little finger but don't tell her. I can't afford anymore Barbies.

I never knew I could feel the way about someone that I do about my children. They are a huge part of my life. I would die for them.

7:16am: I'm done with my hypertonic saline and have now moved on to my Pulmozyme aerosol. I'm still doing the vest as I'll finish them both in about 25 minutes.

This weekend is going to be a busy one. We have Yom Kippur Friday night and Saturday morning, which I mentioned in the previous blog is the Jewish Day of Atonement. Friday night is called Kol Nidre which is the holiest night of the year. Andrea and I will be in synagogue Friday night and Saturday morning. We are supposed to fast during that time. Due to taking meds and doing treatments, I usually grab something small to eat and drink water throughout the day. I like to think that God understands. I have fasted before but I've noticed that it affects me a little more than the average person to go without food.

Okay, if Ethan doesn't show up soon, I'm going to start throwing toys at myself. Maybe Avery will arrive first. Sometimes she just walks down and sits next to me. That of course means the end of this blog because it will be time for Starfall which is a kid's educational website that she and Ethan love.

Did I mention that with my therapy, I have to pay special attention to the time. I start my therapy at 40 minutes but I have to increase the frequency at 25 minutes, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes and 5 minutes. There is no buzzer or timer to tell me when to make the adjustments. I just have to be cognizant of the time.

The one thing I don't like about Tobi besides taking time away from hanging out with Andrea and the kids is that it makes me late for work. Most people with CF don't have full time jobs because with our medical agenda, it's almost impossible. I've made it work thanks to a very understanding workplace. Yes, it helps that my father plays a large role in the company but also I have some very understanding co-workers. I do the best I can to be as "normal" as possible. It' just difficult. Most people show up between 8:00am and 8:30am. I'm there closer to 9:00am. Sure I could wake up at 4:30am and do my therapy then but per my doctor and my wife I need to get my rest. It's not healthy to get four hours of sleep per night.

Since I've already worked out, I have to come up with something else to do during my 20 minute hiatus between my Pulmozyme and my Tobi. Today I think I'm going to run laps in the basement for about 5 minutes and then maybe check out my sports scores (although it's tough on mornings after the Braves lose) or my Facebook account. I've added a lot of friends. People think I'm crazy by doing that and maybe it is the addict in me because some of the people I friend don't know me, but they have a tie to cystic fibrosis so I figure it's a good way to tell them about my blog. It's also a good way to educate myself about things they might be doing that I have not tried to stay healthy. Also by starting Facebook groups, I'm learning that I'm not the only one that goes through depression partially because of this disease. There are many others who at one point thought they were alone too.

Well I'm one of the few East coasters that watched the entire Giants-Dodgers game last night. Sadly the Giants won and the Braves are about to be chasing a playoff spot instead of being able to control their own destiny. I love baseball. I don't know if I love it because it's a distraction from CF or if it's because it was the first true thing that my father and I both loved. It was our bond. It was the only show he and I agreed on when I was growing up. He would compromise his "60 minutes" and I would give up "The Facts of Life."

Speaking of my dad, he's doing better. His spirits are high. He'll be home soon. Everyone at work asks about him. I have to wear the strong face at work but I do worry at times. I'm his son and I love him, but I also know that he's doing well and this time in our lives is going to allow me to never take my father for granted again. I can say the same thing for my mother. She has been a rock. I love her so much. Yes, she nags me and worries about me but I believe those are two requisites in the Jewish mother handbook. If you ever lose your "Real White Pages" and you need to get a number, my mom can be your source. She knows everyone. Not only will you get a number, but you can have a background check added on for free whether you want it or not. For example, "Larry, oh I know his mom. Do they still live on Rocky Street? How's her arthritis? Does he still have that birthmark on his right knee?" You laugh but it's incredible. My parents are my heroes. They fight for me and they believe in me. I haven't always deserved their encouragement but they still give it to me and love me as if I was perfect. They show me a love that I not only want to give back to them but that I want to give to my kids and my wife.

7:41am: Vest is done. Pulmozyme is therefore done. I hear Andrea's footsteps which means Ethan and Avery are near. I can't wait to see the three of them. That's how I will spend my twenty minute break. I want to hang out with my family. During my problematic days, I never said nor felt that and that's really sad.

8:09am: I'm starting my Tobi aerosol treatment.

So I did a little running in place, hung out with the kids and Andrea for 5 minutes and then took the quickest shower I could. I also got all my meds together that I'll have to take while I'm at work. That's a total of about 20 pills. I also found out that I'm losing my mind because apparently when I woke up, Ethan woke up but since I left before he saw me, he didn't really think to hang out with me. I also want to bring up another thing. I hope I don't make it look like I do all of this and Andrea is sitting on the couch eating bon bons. That's not the case. That's not even close to the case. She has to get Avery prepared for her day at school. She has to straighten things up for the cleaners who come every other week. She has to watch the kids part of the time I'm doing my therapy. She has to get ready for work. Remember she's also a cancer survivor and has multiple sclerosis. There are so many others things I can mention that she does for me and the kids. She's my lucky star which is kind of what I think about when I look at the picture attached. Yes, funny people, I know that this is a picture of the moon but it's shining and moon metaphors don't go over as well.

Andrea is an overachiever herself. I just try to tell this blog from my end so sometimes I fail to mention things about others in the house. Magic, I'll write about you in the next blog and how you allow me to feed you every morning and give you treats. I know your life is not a picnic either.

Speaking of others in the house, I hear "Daddy, Daddy!" Here comes my little man. I can't believe how much I took my children for granted. I was mentally sick. Depression isn't something that goes away nor are my other emotional/mental issues. I have to be proactive and that's why I attend meetings and seek therapy. I don't want to let my family down again.

8:45am: Well, I'm done with my Tobi and off to work. I took Ethan upstairs, grabbed some breakfast on the run and should be at work a few minutes after 9:00am.

Thanks for spending time with me over the last 10 hours and 2 blogs. Hopefully it gave you a small peak into my CF world. Have a great day. For my Jewish friends, have an easy fast. For my other friends, have a wonderful weekend and never take for granted the time you have with family and friends. In fact, never take for granted any time you have just being alive. It truly is the greatest gift you'll ever have. I have to go now. Someone is throwing toys at me.

Live your dreams and love your life,

Andy

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Making amends, dealing with regrets and a chance to join me during my treatments


I figured I'd give you details of what my therapy is like while I blog. I'll give you a blow by blow call of what I'm doing at each moment.

10:40pm: Two puffs on my Xopenex inhaler, pouring sinus medicine in both nostrils, spraying nasal antibiotic in both nostrils and squirting sinus spray in both nostrils

10:45pm: Starting my hypertonic saline


As I mentioned in my last blog, I'm on Step 9 which means making amends. I'm currently writing letters to those people that I've hurt in some way to amend my wrongs. How fitting that it occurs on the eve of Yom Kippur which is the Day of Atonement in Jewish tradition.

11:00pm: starting my 40 minute vest session

I am having a tough time right now because I'm having to re-live my past mistakes. I've heard the line "Everyone is human" but that sounds more like an excuse to me than a simple cliche. I have made mistakes and I'm far from perfect. I have let my compulsion and depression issues get the best of me. I have hurt several people in my life including many who I love very much.

Not only have I had to look at my recent past but I've had to remember things from my childhood that have played a role in my actions as I grew up. George, my therapist, and I have gone over these issues frequently. I've tried to look up some of the people who affected me negatively as a child but I could only find one and I promised my sponsor I would wait till I finish my 12th step before I call or e-mail him. The other person is unreachable at this point. I looked her up on Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace and Google. It's as if she doesn't exist except in my mind. I'm sorry to be so vague when I speak of my wrongs but I'm not ready to release that skeleton yet. I've released so many already.

I'm about a week into Tobi and I'm spending a lot of late nights and early mornings staring at this computer screen pondering life. I start thinking about my problems and wondering if it was God's grand plan to put me through these things because I'm the type of person who is not afraid to speak about his problems. Maybe I'm a spokesman who can help others. That's my hope. I'm not being cocky when I say that; it's just I hope these things in my life happened for a reason. I have to believe that in order to keep going.

11:17pm: Done with hypertonic saline, still doing my vest and now doing Pulmozyme aerosol for 20 minutes while I finish my vest simultaneously

When I'm having a good day, I look at my life and think I married a beautiful woman, miraculously had 2 children, ran with the Olympic Torch, wrote multiple books and have become a successful fundraiser. When I'm in my dark place, I think about death a lot. I think about leaving my kids with only a faint memory of their father. I think about all of the regrets I have and how I'll never be able to make up for them. Life is a complicated thing. The minute I think that life is unfair, I have to remember how ironic that is. I've been given a life. That's the fairest thing God can do for us. Some of us aren't given the hands we would have wished for but still we're living and breathing and that's fair enough for me.

Several people have asked what depression is like or what addictions/compulsions are like. In my case, depression feels like I'm walking into this very dark place and I can't get out and after a while I don't want to get out. I just become lazy in shame. It feels as if there are no solutions to any of my problems. Every second seems to last an hour and every day seems to last a month. People are constantly telling me to snap out of it as if I want to be this way. Depression is not something I want to feel; it's just something I feel. Imagine having to sneeze but people tell you to just hold it in. You can't do it and neither can I. Compulsion and addiction are kind of the same thing. There are hundreds of addictions out there if I were to guess and since reading about this topic, it seems like a common theme is that addiction is when you can't stop from doing something no matter what the consequences are. It's a feeling like everything is shades of gray while it should be obvious what is black and what is white. It's like having the devil on your shoulder telling you what to do and the angel is fast asleep. It's scary stuff.

I'm on a few anti-depressants and they do help, but I still have my moments though I can cope now in a more positive way. I go to meetings for my compulsions and I go to therapy for both my compulsions and depression. I'm an obvious addict by the way with whatever I do. Let's look at my fish hobby as one example. I started with a beta fish and a year later I have 2 beta fish in my office, 2 tanks in my living room and a large tank in my bedroom. I could name several more examples but they're all the same. I always want more. Nothing is perfect. When I get to the top of the mountain, I want to find a taller mountain. That's something I'm working on toning down.

On a bright note, I'm so excited about going with the family to Disney World. Avery is so excited. It's all she can talk about. Andrea has done a terrific job setting all of this up. I know that the kids will love it. I'm also excited to see my Nana Rose whose house I haven't visited since Avery was a baby. I can't wait to show my kids around the house which my grandmother has had since my mom was a little girl. We are also looking forward to seeing my mother-in-law Roberta and her husband Glenn who live just outside of Orlando.

11:40pm: Finished my vest and Pulmozyme. Now must wait 20 minutes before starting my Tobi aerosol. Cleaned the basement. Watched Giants-Dodgers game on Internet and rooting for the Dodgers so the Braves can stay 1.5 games up on Giants in the wild card race. Between the 6th and 7th innings, I ran 10 laps in the basement.

Well, I plan to start making my amends this weekend and I plan to atone for my wrongs on Friday night and Saturday during Yom Kippur. I can tell you that now I have a very high self esteem but not to the point of arrogance. That's dangerous for any addict. The moment you think everything is great is when you let your guard down and all of your issues return at full force. I'm never letting that happen again. Never!

12:05am: Starting Tobi

I'm not the only one with CF who deals with emotional issues. I started a Facebook group for those with CF who deal with depression too. In just over a week, I have nearly 200 members.

CF is a depressing disease. I just glanced at "Growing Older with CF" which is a handbook for CF adults. Some of the chapters include Pulmonary Disease, Gastrointestinal Disease, Pancreatic Enzyme Deficiency, Hemoptysis, Pneumothorax, Sinusitis, Bacteria Fungi and Lung Infection in CF, Pulmonary Exacerbations, Respiratory Failure, Lung Transplantation, Diabetes Millitus, Glucose Intolerance, Arthritis and Other Joint Diseases and Bone Conditions, and CF and Cancer.

Apparently having CF means there is more of a probability of having digestive tract cancers and also the odds of have leukemia increase if a patient has the Delta F508 gene, which most CF patients including myself have. Looking at all of this, it's no wonder CF patients have trouble with depression. I didn't even mention the fact that 98% of males with CF can't even have children without fertility methods. I'm one of the lucky 98% but thanks to in vitro fertilization I was able to enclose the picture of these two cuties who Andrea and I just adore. Then you have the cost of drugs, the amount of drugs and the amount of time spent doing therapies and treatments. It's exhausting.

Still there are approximately 30,000 of us out there and we're surviving. Breakthrough drugs continue to develop. The life expectancy continues to increase. There are several exciting studies out there. In other words, there are lots of negatives to having CF but I'd prefer to see the glass as half full.

12:45am: Done with Tobi treatment. Giants won. Bummer! Heading up to drink some water, brush my teeth and head to bed. Thanks for joining me during my treatment tonight or should I say this morning.

To the day when CF stands for Cure Found. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of so many of you, that day is a lot closer than it has ever been.

Live your dreams and love your life,

Andy