I know the dilemma. Just title this little ditty “Achilles meets Icarus”.
My way of coping with the realities of CF in the workplace 26 years ago was to start my own business with the aim to create a more user-friendly work environment. I determined to be overt with all aspects of CF. As I hired employees, part of my interview process was “the CF talk”. I assured them my frequent huffing, puffing, and sputum production was not contagious. If that was problematic, I assured them another job opportunity existed somewhere else. It is normal for my employees to observe me at the office with a Tobi bomb tucked into my shirt pocket and a PICC line in my arm. If they are uncomfortable with CF, they hide it well. I do my best to control this environment.
The downside of this arrangement is (pause for the obvious) I own a company…it is a 24/7 thing.
True to my OCD personality (hello Achilles), I grew the company significantly in the first 10 years (good day to you, Icarus). We had offices all over the US and Canada and I had to keep up with them. I experienced too much air travel (a real challenge because it is pretty much impossible to normalize huffing, puffing and sputum with strangers on a plane), too much time in major cities with air quality issues, and I missed too many treatments due to the travel and meetings. As the company grew, I found myself failing physically. The company was successful, but I was not.
One day I found myself in the emergency room due to a serious episode of hemoptysis (can you relate?). I was hooked up to all the usual medical devices. At the same time, I was constantly on the phone dealing with several pressing company issues. I was still coughing frank blood, I had an elevated fever, and sweat on my brow. I felt that familiar mental shift to a cloud. Not totally sharp. The IV kept getting in the way of the laptop. The nurses kept interrupting my phone calls. At the end of the day and after a “come to Jesus” conversation with my partner, Sandi, I finally admitted this was not sustainable.
Upon arriving back home, I was reminded of the biblical discussion. “What does it profit a person if he/she gains the world but loses his/her soul”. (I know, that sounds extreme, but I was raised to be an extremist…). I considered the present situation (stress, lack of solid sleep, physical exhaustion, untreated infection due to inadequate preventative measures) with the desire for quality of life (longevity, growing older with my partner, potentially living to see grandchildren, etc). I also considered ego and the need to excel in everything regardless of consequence (though that tendency had served me well in some areas it had been utterly destructive in others). Ultimatly, I reached the obvious conclusion. I needed to reorganize my priorities–again.
As mentioned above, I tend to extreme. As such, over the ensuing 6 months, I shut down all non-Seattle offices. I made it a point to prioritize my treatment routine. I substituted a 12-hour work day with 8 hour days. I targeted 10 hours sleep rather than 6. I stopped working on the weekend. And yes, the growth of my company was compromised because life is always a trade-off. However, I was still successful enough to raise the kids and live a good life and experience 4 grandchildren and enjoy have a loving relationship with my dream woman.
By abandoning the race to the top, I was able to enjoy the priorities of my life. One of the best decisions I’ve made.