Honoring fathers, the men in my life who inspire me

A tribute to the dads who have supported me in life with CF

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

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For years, it felt like Dad and I were polar opposites of each other, despite sharing the same first and last name and some of the same DNA. He’s always been an outgoing and boisterous person, ready to lead anybody into singing Frank Sinatra, coaching county-champion baseball and basketball teams, and holding court in restaurants to talk with someone he knows for 10 to 15 minutes while Mom and I wait.

Meanwhile, I’m the quiet son. You won’t see me leading Bruce Springsteen singalongs, I don’t plan on coaching basketball, and I’m notorious for Irish goodbyes in social situations.

However, I’ve tried to take many of his positive traits and adapt them as my own.

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How my parents and New York City taught me courage in life with CF

Lessons from my dad

My dad has always been positive about me living with cystic fibrosis (CF), saying, “We can cry about it or accept the hand that God gave us and work on making it better. No one would blame us for crying, but what’s it worth always beating yourself up?”

I don’t know anyone who’s quite as busy as my dad. For 41 years, the guy worked as a train conductor for PATH, a train that travels between New Jersey and New York City. He’s been stopped countless times on the streets of Manhattan or Jersey City by people who traveled on his trains. On top of that, he’s coached baseball and basketball, and now he referees high school basketball and works as a baseball umpire at every amateur level except college. Yet he still manages to check in on his friends and the guys he used to work with.

Despite his busyness, he’s always shown up for me, too. When I was born, he struggled a lot with the chest physical therapies required for my lungs. The first time he had to clap on my chest and back, he cried because he worried he was hurting me. But over time, with a lot of practice and hard work, he got better at doing my therapies and putting in my feeding tube. He’d stay with me during the day and go to work at night, whether I was in the hospital or at home.

He and I joke about the timing now, but the day he retired was the day he and my mom rushed me to the hospital for sepsis. He was there every day, as he was the last two times I was admitted for pneumonia. There were days in the hospital when it was just him and me. I would get neurotic about my situation, but he’d guide me into a positive mental state.

It’s just as important for me to keep working at getting better about doing my CF treatments and taking my medications as it is for me to be there for family and friends when they need me. My dad taught me that. I’m working to be better.

Nobody works harder than Bill Ryan.

The other dads in my life

This Father’s Day, I’m also thankful for the other fathers in my immediate family. My uncles, on both sides of my family, have gone out of their way to help out with the Great Strides walkathon, the CF Foundation’s yearly fundraising event. My godfather, my dad’s only brother, has worked hard to raise money for CF, going back to his days as a police officer. He even drove an hour from the Jersey Shore to deliver me a sandwich when I was in the emergency room for pneumonia.

My father-in-law is another of my favorite people. Besides my own dad, there’s no one else I can talk with about sports for hours and not get tired. He’s also quietly one of the funniest people I know; his deadpan delivery of one-liners and responses can have me in tears sometimes. He also inspired me to get a Dexcom device for my diabetes as he, too, has a glucose monitor in his arm.

Many men with CF have difficulty having children naturally. If the day comes, I hope I can be a good father to my child and that, no matter what adversity they may face, they can use me as an example to find their ability to overcome it. For now, being a dog dad to Otis and Ruby takes up my time at home. They may not understand “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or what a touchdown is, but they love me almost as much as I love them. That love may include bribery via treats and snacks, but I’ll take it.

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.


Anthony Palmiero avatar

Anthony Palmiero

Thanks for the comments. Too bad we like different teams. I root for your teams anyway. Love Tony

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

I root for yours too. Love you, Tony!

Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

The columns you wrote about mothers and now fathers are very poignant. What a support staff you have - at least half of New Jersey that I know of! Your dad is unbelievable with all the time spent with you plus working so hard. I didn't know there were that many hours in a day! These 2 columns certainly prove how very much you are loved by so many who would bend over backwards to help you at any given moment. Tony and I are so glad we're part of this love. Keep up the good fight - we're right there with you. Love, Helen 💖

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Thank you! Love you too, Helen!

Rob Coholan avatar

Rob Coholan

Happy Fathers Day Will, thank you for sharing your thoughtful insights, please keep up the good work.

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Thank you, Rob!


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