31 Days of CF: The Gift of Being a Partner and Caregiver

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31 Days of CF

Photo courtesy of Toni Frehner

Day 16 of 31

This is Toni Frehner’s story:

My name is Toni, and I am a partner and caregiver in my 30s to someone with cystic fibrosis. 

Colten and I met in high school, and after graduation, we ventured out separately into the adult world. We didn’t keep in touch for about six years, but then reconnected — and realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. We started dating nine years ago. 

When we first started dating, I was reading up on CF and what it would mean for me. There was a lot to learn and accept. No children, statistically shorter life span, hospital visits, medications, daily routines, etc.

I jumped in, full steam ahead with a full heart. The first three years of our relationship, Colten was hospitalized multiple times, with very real and very traumatic life-threatening experiences. It created a lifetime bond between us. 

But for Colten, it wasn’t the hospital that was scary, it was watching me in a stressful and panicked state that was painful for him. I remember every time we were in the emergency room, he was the one holding my hand and comforting me. 

Being a caregiver has its challenges and sacrifices. I have spent the majority of my adult life managing our home and lifestyle due to Colten’s limited energy, making financial sacrifices because he couldn’t work, and constantly pushing him to do treatments/take meds because I want him around as long as possible. 

But being with someone who has a chronic illness really puts life into an amazing perspective. Birthdays are actually celebrated, not feared. And life seems a little sweeter because you don’t ever take a single breath for granted. Having that as a constant reminder in my daily life is a pretty incredible gift. 

Cystic Fibrosis News Today’s 31 Days of CF campaign will publish one story per day for Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month in May. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofCF, or go here to see the full series.