Tuesday, November 11, 2014

And the winter is...

Many of us watch a two-hour movie like “Rocky” and think we can overcome the odds like that. We can win against even the toughest of opponents. Success comes to those of us who work for it no matter what.

First off, that was a movie.

Second of all, it takes a far longer time to defeat a resilient adversary than two hours.

Third, Apollo Creed doesn’t hold a candle to depression.

Depression is a much tougher opponent

I’m generally a positive person as most of you who know me would probably attest. Still I’m having a difficult time these days staying positive.

It has nothing to do with my family. Andrea and the kids are doing amazing. Ethan’s sports enthusiasm, Avery’s humor and Andrea’s love are what keep me from losing it most days.

From those who don’t suffer from depression, I hear the usual remarks. “Why are you so down?” “Smile once in a while.” “There are so many people worse off.” “But Wish for Wendy was so great!”

What people don’t understand is that depression isn’t usually caused by one thing in particular. It’s just a feeling that gets progressively worse and people like myself need medication and/or to see a therapist to maintain some sense of sanity.

This time of year is predominantly worse than any other season for me. I discussed this fact with my therapist the other day and decided to detail all of the things that have caused me to despise the winter time. I’m dedicating today’s blog to providing a list of these issues.

For most individuals, winter depresses because we wake up and it’s dark and we leave work or school and it’s dark. That’s a part of why the winter brings me down but only a small part. My reasons are more specific to my past.

As I write this, I also just got the news that one of our closest family friends Dr. Laurence “Larry” Rivkin has passed away. Dr. Rivkin was an amazing man who was close with my parents and was like a family member to me. Dr. Rivkin was also a pulmonologist and was always one to give me advice regarding my physical and also my mental health. He was a key in getting me into Ridgeview years ago, a move that dramatically changed my life. My family will miss Dr. Rivkin greatly as will so many others. This means I will be going to a funeral this week as well as facing my doctors at my CF Clinic. It’s not going to be a great week.

Dr. Rivkin was always there for our family. It seemed whenever we had a question that he had an answer. Sadly I know that there will be so many questions left unanswered.

Here are 7 reasons that winter has been a tough time for me and how I’m looking for solutions to make things better.


PROBLEM: My Health

One, this is primarily the time of year where my thoughts turn toward my health as I’ve been down and out from CF most winters. Cold weather creates more pulmonary exasperations. I don’t just worry about me. I worry about doing less and therefore asking my wife and kids to do more. It seems so unfair to me. I’m already on an oral antibiotic as I called my doctor because my cough was worse than normal. It wasn’t all that noticeable to those around me but I could tell. I’m trying to be smart and do things to keep me strong. I have my doctor’s appointment this week (Thursday) to check my PFT’s and also to do a bone density scan to see if I have osteoporosis. I’ll also be checking my glucose in the next few months to see if I have CFRD (CF related diabetes). It’s a lot to deal with.

SOLUTION: Positivity

My solution is to constantly push myself in the gym. I’m still working out with my trainer twice a week. I’ve gone from running a mile a day on the treadmill to 1.5 to 2 miles a day. That’s an extra 3.5 to 7 miles a week which should help my lungs. I also have to understand that if my lungs are having issues or if I do have Osteoporosis or CFRD that it’s not the end of the world. I will just have to do things to improve them and those are all possibilities. Do I feel horrible right now? No, in fact, I think I’m in as good a shape as I’ve been in a long time. No test results can change that. Dr. Wolfenden, my doctor who passed away a few years ago from breast cancer, used to tell me that it’s not what the results say. It’s how I feel that matters the most. The results are for the doctors to make adjustments to keep me strong.

Battling cystic fibrosis is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job but in the winter it feels even longer.


PROBLEM: Depression

This is the time of year that my depression rears its ugly head. As I mentioned earlier, I spent 3 weeks as an outpatient at Ridgeview several years ago. I don’t talk much about it but it was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned how to manage my issues and cope with my problems. I found my psychiatrist there and he has been a big help in turning my life around. I still claim that admitting you have depression and/or anxiety doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it does the exact opposite.

SOLUTION: Seek help

My bouts with depression this time of year are why I made sure to see my therapist this month. I also scheduled a bi-monthly massage to cool my anxiety. The important thing is to monitor my issues and communicate them with my wife and my doctors. Sometimes that’s easier said than done but it’s a must to being mentally strong.

Battling cystic fibrosis is tough. Battling cystic fibrosis AND depression feels nearly insurmountable.


PROBLEM: Focused on dying

Many of my CF friends have passed away in the winter time and sadly there have been a lot more CF fatalities lately. It’s almost become commonplace to hear that someone from CF is in the hospital or worse, died.

SOLUTION: Focus on living

I’m working on a Katy Perry CF video this winter to bring a little bit of the positivity back. It will be like the nebulizer video from last year. I believe that will help my spirits. I also believe it is my off-season work to beat CF. Wish for Wendy raises money. These videos raise awareness.

Katy, I hope I can "roar" when this winter is over.



Four years ago this month I lost one of my best friends as Rusty Sneiderman was shot and murdered. Over the next few years, we dealt with defiant lawyers, hate mail, constant calls from the media and tumultuous trials. It took a lot out of myself, Andrea and everyone else involved.


I can just remember Rusty for all of the good things he brought to me and my family. He left us way too soon. I still miss him most days.

Buddy, I miss you.



Wendy died in the winter. While Wendy was born and died before I was born, I could still feel the pain that Wendy’s loss put on my parents. My mom used to remind me every year around Wendy’s birthday how lucky I was. I didn’t truly understand why she pushed this upon me until I was older and had my own children.

SOLUTION: My new family

The solution to this is to be a good dad to my children and help them understand how fortunate they are to be healthy. A lot of people take their health for granted. Sadly, I’ve never had that opportunity. My parents have always taught me to be grateful and giving. I hope that Andrea and I will be able to teach those same habits to our children. I also believe that the success of Wish for Wendy gives my sister’s life more positive meaning.

It's hard to measure what type of impact a person I've never met has made on my life.



As far as sports go, baseball is far and away my favorite sport and it is over in the winter. Some would argue it ended early this summer for the Braves. Having to watch the Falcons and Bulldogs unravel is not a cure for making me feel better. My softball season is also over until March.

SOLUTION: From player to coach

This winter, I’m going to focus on playing baseball with Ethan and helping Avery to learn softball. She wants to play next season and I’m going to be her coach. She and I have a deal. I can’t wait!

I can't wait to teach them everything I know about the game I love.


PROBLEM: Highs and Lows

Wish for Wendy is in the books. I see so many of my friends for 12 hours that day in October and all of a sudden I don’t see many of them for another 4 to 6 months. It’s as if there is a big high and all of a sudden it’s like crickets chirp for the next several months.

SOLUTION: Making an effort

I need to make more of an effort to see my friends even when it’s freezing out. The introverted side of me has trouble making that effort. I still remember those days at the TEP house at UGA where I could not walk out of my room. I would grab the door knob, start to turn it and then let go. Sometimes you have to do things that are uncomfortable and for me that means making more of an effort to be social.

Sometimes I feel like this when Wish for Wendy is over. I am still talking but everyone is gone.


So over the next 4 months, I will fight to be positive. I will continue to focus on my health but try not to over-analyze every aspect of it. I will communicate with my family and my doctors and make every effort to socialize with my friends.

This is the time of year where most days are a battle for me. I’m not going to pretend like this is “Rocky” and I’ll just fight my way to the top in 2 hours.

My goal is just to be standing in 4 months.

I look forward to the challenge.

Now ring the damn bell!!!

Live your dreams and love your life!