My career goals are finally possible, thanks to my new lungs

After years of health challenges, a columnist begins planning for the future

Lara Govendo avatar

by Lara Govendo |

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I’ve talked a lot about dreaming about the future, but not really about planning for it. Being born with cystic fibrosis (CF) made it challenging to depend on my health, so planning for the future never felt like a viable option. But now, more than five years after my double-lung transplant, I’m following through on career plans I never thought I’d have the capacity for.

Last weekend, I passed the National Counselor Examination. I’ve been studying since November and finally felt ready to take the test, which was based on my graduate work. It’s been nearly 12 years since I graduated with a master’s degree in mental health and school counseling, so this was a giant feat for me.

I’m forging ahead and completing all the requirements for licensure. I just need to finish my clinical hours and take one more exam before I officially become a licensed clinical mental health counselor. It feels miraculous to be able to follow through on my plans and accomplish my career goals. I’m in uncharted waters after my roller coaster of a health journey.

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I considered my chronic illness when choosing a career

Putting my dreams on hold

Pre-transplant, my life constantly oscillated between exciting starts and sudden stops. I’d start working toward a goal, my health would plummet, and I’d have to halt the process. It would be several weeks before I could get back to it — if I did at all. I felt so defeated. It seemed like I couldn’t accomplish anything substantial because my health was unreliable.

When my health declined rapidly due to CF, I had to take five years off from working as a therapist. As I went into respiratory failure, my life came to a halt. All of my decisions and actions were centered around my health as I fought for my life.

After my transplant, I had to endure the rigorous recovery and healing process. My goal of getting licensed was shelved.

I returned to work two years ago. It’s been challenging to juggle adjusting to the rhythm of work while also chipping away at the necessary steps to get my license. I’ve been overwhelmed by the process and wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle it, given my track record.

The trauma of having to stop the licensure process prior to transplant weighed heavily on my mind. I was afraid that my health would tank again, and I wouldn’t be able to finish what I started. My anxiety was heightened as I waited for the other shoe to drop.

Gaining confidence

That’s why this exam wasn’t just a test for me. It signified that I could set a goal, work toward it, and actually accomplish it. Even though I’ve been sick a few times since November, I’ve been able to pick up where I left off and continue studying. I didn’t have to wait several months for my health to stabilize, like I did before transplant.

As times goes on, I’m slowly building trust in my health. I’m still dancing the cha-cha of being healthy and getting sick, but I’ve learned that I can rely on my new lungs. It feels safer to set goals and believe I can accomplish them. I’m no longer chained to the perpetual start-stop cycle of failing lungs.

On March 18, 2017, I was medically transported to Boston and urgently listed for new lungs. On the same day six years later, I aced an exam for my career. It’s a true story of redemption — my life has become unrecognizable in the best of ways.

I think I need a new pair of shades because my future’s looking bright!

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.


Joan Bernstrom avatar

Joan Bernstrom

Bravo! So happy to read about your journey. Despite all the major bumps on the road, you DID IT! Celebrate You!

Gisele F Lapointe avatar

Gisele F Lapointe

So happy for you. You're getting a new lease on life, something that was denied to most CF patients in the past. Now, make the best of it.


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