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!


1 comment: