I considered my chronic illness when choosing a career

Health insurance and treatment costs were at the top of the list of concerns

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner graphic for

Before I wanted to be a baseball player, I longed to be a film director. This came from watching movies by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis when I was growing up. I even tried acting, playing the role of an orphan in the musical “Oliver!,” based on Charles Dickens’s novel “Oliver Twist.”

However, I realized two things: I wasn’t good at acting, so I wasn’t not sure I’d be the right person to elicit a stellar performance by an actor; and my medicine for cystic fibrosis (CF) and other conditions was going to cost a pretty penny, and as an indie filmmaker, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford them.

Growing up with an illness like cystic fibrosis, I had to rethink what I wanted to do for a career. Paying for treatment and health insurance is just as important to me as the salary I earn. If my dad wasn’t a train conductor and in a union, I’m not sure my parents would’ve been able to afford some of the medications I had to take.

Recommended Reading
A graphic depicting a woman on a stage with the words

How I Turned My Cystic Fibrosis Advocacy Into Part of My Career

However, I consistently thought I could be an exception to the rule in terms of choosing a profession and managing healthcare costs. Realizing in high school that I didn’t have the patience or ability to deal with the anxiety that comes with being a director, I decided I wanted to be a photographer. My mom wanted to be one, too, and she always let me hold her camera and take photos when I was a child.

I was a decent photographer who got better over time, but with the advent of smartphones, photography as a career didn’t make sense to me anymore.

A better fit

When I finally got to college, I again had to reevaluate what kind of career I wanted. I knew that I was healthier than many others with CF, so I had to take advantage of my abilities. I also knew that one day, I might not be able to work.

So I decided to study politics and government. At the time I wasn’t yet advocating for greater CF awareness, but I’d been interested in politics from a young age. Eventually, I landed a job in this field, which has allowed me to continue living a comfortable life while affording my medications. It’s been a good fit for me.

I do wish I could’ve had a job that better used my creativity, such as art or photography, but I’m grateful that I’m able to refocus those passions in my current field.

How has cystic fibrosis affected your passions and career choices? Please share in the comments below. 

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 M Palmiero avatar

Anthony M Palmiero

Good job Will. Have fun on your trip.

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Thanks, Tony!

Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

So, Will, you and your mom were interested in photography - just like me! However, the day-to-day realities - and expenses - of life after high school blew that dream right out of the water. So, like so many of us, I worked at "regular" office jobs for the steady income and medical benefits. But at your age, you have the whole world at your fingertips, especially considering all the progress being made in the battle against CF. So, who knows? It's too late for me but maybe photography or whatever else you're interested in could become a side hustle for you. So keep your eyes peeled for opportunities - maybe using a camera lens! Much love and hope, Helen

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

I'll keep my eyes open! Love you too!


Leave a comment

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

A Conversation With Rare Disease Advocates

Your CF Community

Visit the Cystic Fibrosis News Today forums to connect with others in the CF community.