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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Growing Up

Over the last year I've run into people that I haven't seen in months/years. It's almost always the same conversation.

"Wow, a double lung transplant?! I'm so glad you got that, you were so sick as a kid!"

Maybe it was just me, but I never felt sick as a kid. I played just as hard as the boys I grew up around (there just weren't many girls on my street) and I can remember occasionally having to stop and cough. That's it, just a cough here and there. In fact, now that I have my transplant, I constantly am comparing my life to when I was about 12. Health-wise that is. I hope I've at least matured a little since then ;) but to call myself sick while I was in grade school, still to this day, doesn't make sense to me.

For a CFer, I was healthy as a kid. I didn't know many other CFers growing up. The only other kid I knew was Danny, and that was strictly because our parents worked together. I knew he was typically sicker than I was, but I just figured that was because he had a more severe case or that he just didn't take care of himself like my parents had made me. But still, I never FELT sick. Mentally, emotionally, physically, I felt like a normal child. I KNEW I was different, only because how many 7 year olds have you seen grab a handful of pills and swallow them in one swallow? How many 10 year olds have you met that were voluntarily beaten by their parents each morning, sometimes twice a day (haha, CPTs, not thrown around)? Of course I complained about these things because I recognized them as "not normal" but never once did I ever sit down and think "it must be because I'm sick". I was raised to think "I do this to NOT get sick" and I think that made all the difference.

I know this now, but I think it made me push harder to do the physical things I loved to do, like dance. I seriously danced until I was about 16 years old, then I decided to get a job and there just wasn't enough time in the day to do dance, work, and keep up with school. It's one of my regrets. I can't help but think that if I continued to dance, if I kept exercising seriously, if I didn't hang around all of my friends who smoked (most of which have quit now and I'm glad I have them all in my life, regardless of their choices) that I could have postponed the transplant process. Maybe I could have gotten out of school during the 4 years, instead of taking so much time off because I just couldn't physically get to class. But these are all "what-if's" and don't matter.

Starting during the second half of my high school years, I began to get sick. I held on as tight as I could to a normal life... which is so common in the CF community, I'm now finding. We cling to normalcy, we crave it. We want it so bad and there isn't anything anyone can say to change our minds. It makes us fighters, warriors in life. Many of us experience things that most people will never come across. We're stubborn, but some of the most loyal and caring people you'll ever meet. Talk to a CF child and most of the time, you'll feel like you're talking to an adult. We grow up quick and we learn the medical field just as fast. Making decisions about feeding tubes, insulin, IV antibiotics/ports/PICC lines, GI surgeries, lung transplants, bronchoscopies, sinus surgeries, and whatever other problems arise all become second nature. Here's the problem, here's a couple of solutions, which one are you going to pick? Doubt constantly nags the back of your mind that you're making the right decision and that there won't be any further complications from the choice you made.

As a child, those were my parents problems. They tried to let me be a kid for as long as I could. As I grew older, the decisions fell more on me. I grew up quick, but never as quick as when they first brought the idea of transplantation to the table. I went into denial, through all the stages of grief during the waiting process, but am so happy I made the choice that I did. I'm alive today because of that choice and because my donor's family said "yes." I am almost certain I wouldn't be alive today if we both hadn't done what we did.