Feeling Different From Other Kids as a Child With Cystic Fibrosis

Columnist William Ryan shares defining moments from his school days

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by William Ryan |

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Those of us who have cystic fibrosis (CF) each has a story about the first time we felt different from the other kids. That moment tends to have a huge impact on the rest of our lives and how we interpret every interaction with strangers and loved ones alike. If the moment is positive, it can lead to a person being more open about their life with CF. If it’s negative, they may isolate themselves and be more trepidatious about opening up to others.

When I was in preschool and kindergarten, a teacher or teacher’s assistant would take me into the kitchen when it was time for the kids to eat. They sprinkled my enzymes into a few spoonfuls of applesauce, and I’d be all set. Enzymes were important for helping my body digest food, as my digestive system couldn’t do it naturally.

But I never felt unlike the other kids, because I always went to the kitchen with a classmate who had to take medicine as well. No one treated us differently.

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However, things changed when first grade rolled around. During the rest of my time in grammar school, I had to go home for lunch because the nurse was on her lunch break and couldn’t give me my enzymes. Kids would be jealous that I got to go home and watch TV while eating lunch, as they were forced to play in the schoolyard and then eat.

While I definitely loved going home for lunch, it made it harder to socialize with my classmates. So much happened during those 40 minutes that, upon returning to school, I felt lost socially.

Not being able to run at school was also hard. Growing up, every kid was forced to run a mile in the gym in under seven minutes. My gym teacher didn’t let me participate due to my health. While other kids ran laps around the gym, I sat and watched them.

When my classmates finished, I’d hear passing critical comments about me not running and the gym teacher being afraid that I’d pass out. Of course, many people were kind and supportive, but it’s almost natural to focus on negative comments.

My experiences may seem unique, but many of us with CF are united by stories like these. I’d even venture to say that people with various illnesses can relate to feeling different in their own way. It may seem like nonsense, but trust me, finding people with similar stories is a surreal experience. 

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.




Great facts on growing up.Love you son

Helen avatar


Yet another excellently-written, easy to understand article. This one brought out a lot of my feelings about my own illness ("...people with various illnesses can relate to feeling different in their own way.") One example is once when I scratched my head in church & accidently took off my wig. I can truly empathize with you, Will. Keep up the good work!


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