Life with cystic fibrosis (CF) has made me all too aware of the ticking clock. Having a natural tendency to be impatient, I’m a person who wants things done and over with now. Results have to be instant or they’re unsatisfactory.
What I want and what my CF demands, however, are two completely different beasts. If I have to draw something positive from the negative (something I hate to do, though I admit it can be a good exercise), it’s that my CF has taught me patience, for better or worse.
I recently was served a setback in my pursuit of strengthening my lungs and increasing my lung function. After three weeks with a PICC line in, I was supposed to get back to the rowing machine. My sweat was making my dressings peel off, though, so I was severely limited in what I could do.
Finally, I was dressing-free, feeling better, and ready to get into shape. I had started back up on the treadmill, walking a mile and increasing the speed so that it was just below a jog. I was doing well, or so I thought. Then the unexpected happened: I caught a cold.
Coming so close after the end of the antibiotics, the cold felt devastating. I had been doing so well and my lungs had felt so clear. Now they were flooded with mucus again, and I had to put off rowing for yet another few days. Before I even felt better, I was back at it, trying to mitigate the damage as much as possible.
This, it turns out, was a tactical error. It happens that working out before you’re fully recovered just makes you feel iller for a longer period of time. I also tried to jump right back into my pre-PICC line routine, though I knew that a month off meant I had lost progress. Pain and being unable to row my full distance were my only rewards for that.
So, now it’s back to square one: a lower resistance on the rowing machine and not worrying so much about hitting a certain distance within a set time. It’s difficult for me to be unable to do the things I could a month before. I expect instant results, even when I know it’s unrealistic. Sitting down to write up a plan to get me there may chafe, but the human body is remarkably good at telling you when you need to slow down.
My mantra has changed over the years. It’s no longer “now, now, now.” Instead, it’s become, “Take baby steps. Take breaks. You’re not a failure.” I remind myself of this every day, repeating it to myself again and again.
Planning a full life around a chronic illness means accepting the bumps in the road. Learning to accept these bumps is a continuous process, but if I can do it, so can you.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.
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