As a new columnist for Cystic Fibrosis News Today, I am honored to join a team of radically talented writers! My name is Lara, and most people call me “LAR-ah.” Many mistakenly call me Laura. The first syllable rhymes with car. Pronouncing my name correctly ranks you highly in my book!
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 5 months old, my lung disease was always aggressive. The poster child for compliance, I never missed a treatment or medication and always took care of my health.
I was active growing up and was involved in sports, particularly cheerleading and softball. (Yes, cheering is a sport.) I lived as normal a life as possible. No one knew I had CF, and my parents chose to keep it private to prevent bullying to the best of their ability. I’m grateful for that choice because I was bullied enough, and I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if CF were thrown into the mix.
In hindsight, I’m not sure how I tackled attending college. I earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, nonviolence, and business administration, and a master’s degree in mental health and school counseling. Go big or go home, I say, and I was not about to go home without a degree or two.
I worked as a mental health therapist for several years before my own health became increasingly challenging. When you “refill” with a dose of oxygen between clients, it may be an indicator to take it down a notch. But I didn’t listen to my body until I was hit with blood clots and required oxygen 24/7. Then I finally resigned from my job.
I was evaluated for a double-lung transplant beginning in the spring of 2015. At that point, I laughed because I was “nowhere near the point of needing new lungs.” The plan was to keep it in my back pocket if I ever needed it. By August 2016, I had completed the rigorous process.
In early spring of 2017, I was hit with an unknown precipitator and ended up in the intensive care unit for the first time in my life. Fifty-five liters of oxygen and 60 liters of airflow later, I was fighting for my life in a real way. But it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make it. I knew that if my mental, emotional, and spiritual health were in check, the physical part would be easier.
I was transferred to Boston, where I was quickly listed for new lungs. At the top of the list, I waited for a month with no call. So, I was transferred back home to Vermont, where I waited four more months — much of it inpatient — before getting the call. On Aug. 18, 2017, my life changed forever. I’ve been breathing miraculously ever since.
This was almost a year to the day after I completed my evaluation for transplant, and at the time, I didn’t know what the next year would have in store for me. A lot can change in one year.
I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, but I had been unaware of what they were or what their ramifications would be as an adolescent or an adult. With my degree in mental health, life experiences, and personal therapy sessions, awareness and education have been incredibly insightful for my healing process and the development of coping skills. I’m always learning. Always growing.
I’ve been blessed with an incredible family, too. My parents and sister have been my support squad through my health struggles, and I could not have done any of this without them. Truly. They inspire me to be a better person every day.
Friends have come and gone during different seasons of my life. When it comes to boyfriends, I’ve made terrible choices, but I’ve also learned how to let go of toxic relationships in every capacity. When you are so close to death, everything becomes crystal clear. I had to become conscious of what I spent my breath on, because protecting my overall well-being was vital to survival.
CF has taught me so much about life. My resilience, all-in attitude, and never-give-up mentality can be attributed to CF. None of us are immune to the tragedies of this life. Nobody is promised tomorrow. My mission is to bring light to others’ darkness, to love all of humanity, and to revel in the mere miracle of being alive.
I chose “Valiant Voice” as the title of my column because bravery has become a vital part of survival, success, and thriving in the face of my life journey. At the ripe old age of 33, I’ve found my voice and intend to use it in a way that will encourage others to use theirs, too.
Sharing our story is a beautiful opportunity to connect with one another. To remind you, you’re not alone. We’re all in this life together!
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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