The ‘5-year Plan’ Is Not for the Chronically Ill

Wendy Caroline avatar

by Wendy Caroline |

Share this article:

Share article via email
living, mental health

In my last column, I addressed feelings I had about being unable to perform at the same professional caliber as my peers. One of the ways I have mentally adapted is realizing this: The “five-year plan” wasn’t created for the chronically ill.

This “five-year” concept, a popular long-term goal-setting strategy, is fostered from a young age with questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m all for encouraging dreams. However, this concept can inadvertently put pressure on us to know what our lives will be like. This is not a luxury that the chronically ill have.

Career and long-term planning is so naturally ingrained in our workhorse culture here in the land of opportunity. I never even knew it was an issue until I was too sick to keep up. As cystic fibrosis progresses, it becomes increasingly challenging to plan ahead. Planning turns into a game of “How am I feeling today, in this moment?”

My career drive had to accommodate this game. I experimented with several different “projects,” as my peers saw them. In reality, what appeared to be bouncing from one thing to another actually was my attempt to find ways to work while taking my health into consideration. A key feature of chronic illness is the ebb and flow of our health and capabilities.

When I was in high school being asked to plan for a future I couldn’t even fathom, I dreamed of moving to Germany and getting into the music business. So, I went to college to major in music business and minor in German. Halfway through college, my course load became too heavy for my declining health. I said goodbye to my German minor and shifted plans slightly. No big deal.

As part of my college education, I did an internship at a music festival and struggled with the physical demands. So, I shifted my focus to music marketing. No big deal. Then I graduated and got a job that offered great benefits. It wasn’t exactly what I pictured myself doing for the rest of my life, but I needed good health insurance and loved the job. So, no big deal.

Then my health plummeted and I knew my career as a professional was fading quickly. I started working to build a future in which I could work as needed. All those “no big deal” tweaks started to catch up with me.

Suddenly, my peers were getting jobs in their specialized fields. While they were getting promotions, I was stuck at home pumping my body full of IV antibiotics. Had I failed? My five-year plan turned into chaos.

Enter the therapy Trikafta. You guessed it — another tweak in my professional life. Well, this time it was more than a tweak. I wasted no time utilizing my newfound health. I dove into starting my own nonprofit.

My path in life has had bumps, sharp turns, and tough hills to overcome (Ha. Now you get my column title.) That is not unique. So, yes. Goals change as fluidly as our health. We cannot accomplish one without the other. The time to be more inclusive in our professional cultures is now.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.