Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Ever-Changing Definition of Cystic Fibrosis

** I apologize in advance for the length of this blog post. If you do not make it to the end, I will definitely not be offended.  Some of my posts are written more for myself, my CF community, and my future child/children, rather than just the public.  This is one of those posts, and I felt I needed to provide a lot of explanation throughout.**

Inspired by fellow blogger and fibro, Ronnie Sharpe, I felt it was about time I wrote about my views of cystic fibrosis and what it has meant to me throughout the years. 

Those of us who have cystic fibrosis all look at it slightly differently.  Some see it as a burden, others as a constant fear of death, others as just an inconvenience, and still others even view it as a blessing.  For some, the definition of cystic fibrosis is a combination of all of the above terms and more.  
Understandably, my definition of cystic fibrosis has changed throughout the years as I’ve matured.

When I was little having CF meant nothing to me. I ran, jumped, played hard, swam, and did everything normal kids do.  I had to do my treatments, which I hated, but that was all that was different.  This idea of CF stayed with me until my senior year of high school.  I often skipped treatments as I got older, but I could do the same things every other teen could do, so I didn’t view it as much of a problem. If anything, I enjoyed getting out of school for CF clinic days!  At this point, CF, to me, was an undefined “illness” that I had to deal with, but rarely affected me.

During my senior year, my definition of CF changed drastically.  I got sick. Really sick.  I entered the hospital with my O2 sats being quite low, and I was told by a doctor that if I continued this way I’d be looking at a double lung and heart transplant in a few years (talk about scary for a 17 year old). Because of this flare-up, I had my first PICC line and was home from school for a long time.  I also began connecting with my first fellow CFer, Jeremy.  Jeremy lived in the same town as me and had been reported in the local newspaper following his successful double lung transplant.  He was 22, not much older than me, and I felt a strong need to talk to him.  I honestly can not remember how I found him, but we formed a quick friendship where he encouraged me to become more compliant.  We never met in person, but we talked for hours on AOL instant messenger.  At this point, my CF was beginning to scare me.  Due to my first hospitalization and my first PICC line, I realized what it meant to be sick because of cystic fibrosis.  Jeremy helped to calm me down, but at the same time I looked at him (22 years old and having a transplant), and I wrongly figured that would be me as well.  I thought I had a good 5 years left, and CF suddenly meant a shortened life expectancy which invariably led to an early transplant and daily worrying.

That fear multiplied enormously when Jeremy began getting sick.  A few months post-transplant, and he was sick with a lung infection.  He struggled off and on for a few more months before unfortunately passing away.  He was the first fibro I had grown close to, and this was the first time I realized that CF was unfair and painful.  I attended his funeral, unable to keep myself composed, and then I became angry and scared.  I feared death, a lot.  I was angry at CF for taking Jeremy at such a young age.  I hated it all, and I saw CF as an evil, unjust monster lurking behind me with every step I took.

Soon after his passing, I looked for CF support groups to help me heal.  To show me that there was more than just an early death with CF.  At the time (around 8 years ago), I found complete negativity. I couldn’t find a single positive story, and my findings only reinforced my fear and anger about the disease.  I ended up at a therapist’s office and that finally helped me to deal with the feelings I had.   I was working on my fears and pushing the fears I couldn’t deal with to the side.  I began forming a closer relationship with God, and I felt better about my life expectancy, my future goals, and basically life in general.  I also realized after talking with my therapist and my doctors that CF affects every single person in a different way.  This comforted me tremendously, and I began to realize that CF could not be clearly labeled and had to be dealt with in different ways for different people.

As I went off to college, I let my fears mostly subside.  I did my treatments, though nowhere near 100% of the time.  I enjoyed my evenings, I went to my first parties, I enjoyed a drink or two, and I fell deeply in love with David.  Between David and my wonderful roommate, Lindzi, I was encouraged to keep doing my treatments.  I had a handful of people (David, Lindzi, Anna, a childhood friend of mine, and a few others) who truly accepted me for who I was, despite the fact that I took countless pills and did nebulizing treatments.  They pushed me to keep myself healthy, and I truly owe them a lot.  Because of this love and support, I became less fearful of my disease at this time.  I sadly, however, hid my disease from everybody I could.  I had done this all of my life, and I still worried about people accepting me.  CF, to me, was something to be kept in a closet, hidden, although worked on privately, daily.

As college came to a close, I found myself engaged and planning a wedding, graduating after completing a double major with honors, and happier than I ever imagined.  By this point, I was starting to do my treatments all the time.  I would occasionally miss one treatment here or there, but I would say I was 90% compliant.  David and I moved in together in May 2009, and even though I was being mostly compliant, my fears came back full-force.  This was the first time I really was fully taking care of myself without help from my parents, and I was worried whenever my cough sounded different or I had a cold.  It took me a good year and a half to get over this new-found fear, but I attribute this period of insecurity to the fact that my life had dramatically changed (in regards to living away from home), rather than because of my cystic fibrosis.  I can still say, however, that CF became a fearful uncertainty, where I always wondered if a cold or cough would land me in the hospital with another PICC line.

Now, in 2012, I honestly view CF a lot differently than I did during late high school and throughout college.  I have been accepted warmly into my CF family, which has helped me maintain a positive attitude.  I have been told by my doctors that my CF won’t be what takes me out, and I really try to look at it just this way.  I firmly believe that CF will be a part of my life I deal with every single day, but it’s not a curse to me. It’s a burden some days, especially during vacations, when I have to take time out of my day for breathing treatments.  It causes fear at times, when my breathing is difficult for a day or when I get sick.  CF makes me sad sometimes as well, especially when I lose a fellow cyster or fibro.  BUT, overall, I look at CF positively.  I see it as an ever-changing disease.  When I was born, average life expectancy was late teens, early twenties.  Now, it’s almost 40.  There are new drugs being developed all the time for this disease, and I am so grateful for that.  Because of these factors, I truly see myself as a grey-haired old lady, holding her grandkids and complaining about these young whipper-snappers who plainly don’t realize how lucky they have it. I firmly plan on embellishing all the “rough-patches” of my childhood in the stories I tell them. 

CF may be a part of my daily life, but I’m working as hard as possible to ensure it doesn’t take me out of this world.  I focus on the positives, and I fight every single day to maintain 100% compliance with my treatments and good health.  Today, CF is as much a part of me as my brown hair and brown eyes, but it is certainly not an all-encompassing label which defines me.  It simply is, and I accept it, work to better myself because of it, and live every day to its fullest, a life motto cystic fibrosis reminds me of daily.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Routine, routine.

Not much has been going on in the Murray household over the past week or so.  The only exciting thing was a visit from my mother-in-law and David's (our) great aunt.  We had a wonderful afternoon yesterday, and enjoyed spending time outside of our home.  Other than that, it's been a lot of typical routine days.

David has been working, quite diligently, at getting the rest of his school year planned out. ISATs (state standardized testing) are a week away which is always a stressful time for a teacher.  He's trying to get last minute teachings in that he feels are important for the tests while still maintaining interest within the classroom (this is much easier said than done).  Other than that, we've been enjoying watching a plethora of shows and movies together.  Our movie tonight is Sarah's Key, and I have heard great things about it.  I hope we enjoy it as much as others have.

I, as you know, have been reading like crazy.  My current book is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  It's an historical account of the Chicago's World's Fair of 1893.  Surprisingly, It took me quite some time to get into the book (over 60 pages which is a lot for me), but now I'm hooked.  I doubt that I would be nearly as interested if it was written about New York, Philly, or any other city; Reading about Chicago's history is much more fascinating to me since I live close.

I've also been focused on getting into better routines. I have been sterilizing my nebulizers (10 minutes in boiling water each day) earlier in the day so that David and I can be in bed earlier at night. We were getting into bed (because of breathing treatments and work) around midnight or 1 AM each night, only to wake up at 6 AM exhausted and cranky.  Our goal this week is to be in bed by 10 PM each night.  We'll see if we make it.  I also have been setting aside designated times for reading, writing, and working throughout the house. I feel more productive this way, and it's led me to watch less TV throughout the day.

Other than that, I'm just waiting for another liver test of my enzymes next month, and looking for a part-time job.  Nothing too exciting, but sometimes boring is just what we want and need.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Beautiful Gift

During the last few days, I have been giving myself a beautiful gift: I have been reliving my favorite childhood books and rediscovering new childhood classics.  By reading these tiny pieces of Heaven, I find myself immersed, once again, in the simplicity and creativity of my childhood.  With all of the stress, financial strain, and personal struggles that adulthood can bring, there is nothing quite like curling up with a beloved book from a simpler time. 

It is no secret that I am an avid reader, and honestly I can think of few activities that are more enjoyable than reading a good book.  I was the child who was always told to put my book away in school, and I am the adult who sneaks reading time in whenever she can.  As a child, when I opened the pages of a book, I flew away to a world completely unknown but totally familiar at the same time. Even as an adult, I often imagine that I have my own secret sanctuary that no one else can understand; a world filled with various snippets of books I’ve read throughout the years.  To be fair, I think all voracious readers have these worlds.  It’s filled with locations you dream of visiting, characters you long to meet, plotlines you wish you could live out, and friends you have met along the way.  It’s a special place that no one else will fully understand, and it’s as home as the dwelling around you at night.

My current collection of  "currently reading" or "to-read" books.

Because of my love for books, one wouldn’t second-guess that my favorite place (outside of my home) is the library.  Even today, I walk into one and feel the wonder that I felt many years ago as a child. Thanks to the library, I have walked the streets of London, dove within the deepest ocean, had tea with Asian royalty, flown over a mythical school, and encountered numerous other journeys that would never be possible for me in real life. Honestly, what a gift I have been given. 

With my love for reading, comes a passion for writing. I write daily.  Between my blog, my journal, and my young-adult story I’m working on, I am constantly creating something with words.  Although I’m a very skilled reader (and I pride myself on this), I’m not the most skilled writer. I have years of practice ahead of me before I’m anywhere near being a “good” writer.  And that’s ok.  I know my strengths (descriptive settings and characters), and I know my weaknesses (grammar, fluidity, and a boatload of others).  I work on both, and I enjoy strengthening my writing skills.  Eventually, my goal is to write a book and then publish it. Until then, I will enjoy falling into the capable hands of much more talented writers while I read my books, and I will keep working on writing.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just Another Hurdle to Jump

Over the past few weeks, we have been getting excited (and anxious) about starting infertility treatments. On Monday, I received a call with my liver results, which we were expecting to be good (due to my enzyme levels in Dec. and the ultrasound tech saying that my liver looked good).  My Dr. stated that my ultrasound, did indeed look great, but my new enzyme level draws (from 2-9) showed that my levels were once again elevated.  Because of this, she can not recommend us for fertility treatments or for me to carry a pregnancy because she is unsure what is going on in my liver (IVF drugs and pregnancy can throw a regular liver into overdrive, so a liver that is already damaged can have permanent damage).  She said that she wants to re-draw my liver enzyme levels in another month, and if they are still high at that point, she wants to do a biopsy to figure out what's wrong.  Hopefully, the blood draw will come back ok.

Basically, we've reached yet another hurdle that we have to jump over.  This time, however, I'm not able to see the finish line beyond the hurdle.  I realize this may be a bit dramatic, but honestly I'm just getting tired of hearing "just one more test," or "you need another approval letter."  I want to hear, "Ok, we're all set to go with this."  I just don't see it happening anytime soon.

Because of yet another hurdle (this one being more serious than ones we've encountered in the past), we are trying to prepare ourselves for the worst, but still hope for the best.  We are seriously considering, for the first time, that maybe our path isn't meant to include children that are genetically ours.  We are openly talking about adoption or fostering, and we are also trying to accept that it may just be the two of us forever.  Right now, we can barely afford to keep ourselves afloat, let alone be accepted for adoption or fostering (and this is before the CF consideration). Adoption and fostering may simply be out of the question. Yes, these are possibilities that may never occur, but they are real possibilities, and they have to be considered.

Needless to say, Monday night I sat and cried for hours, and my husband held me for hours.  He told me we'd face it all together, no matter what.  He told me that while it has always been his dream to have kids, he'd throw it all away if he could just have me in his arms forever.  As much as we both hate this infertility journey, we can't disagree with the fact that it is bringing us closer and closer with each new barrier we have to break down.

It's Wednesday now, and we're able to look at everything a bit more rationally and a bit less emotionally.  That said, we are (despite what the doctor stated) going to keep trying for a baby naturally. Although it may not be recommended, most of the CFers I know have slightly elevated liver enzymes, and they still are fine throughout a pregnancy.  I'm ok with not having fertility treatments for another few months, but I'm not ok, and will not be ok, with abandoning trying to conceive altogether. My doctor has done every test, short of a biopsy now, and it all looks ok, just with an elevated enzyme level (of 44 I might add which isn't much higher than normal). We will keep trying naturally.

So for now, our plan is to continue trying, continue praying, and continue trusting in God's plan. We firmly believe it will work out the way it's supposed to, and if we are meant to not have kids, then that's the way it goes and we will figure it out together

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Insurance Theme Song!

Two nights ago, David and I went to pick up my prescriptions, only to be astounded by the price they quoted us.  To be fair, we had been warned about this months ago from his school, but when it never happened at the first of the year, we honestly forgot about it (that was our mistake).  Suddenly, all of our co-pays (prescription and office visits) are doubled and our deductibles are higher.  For the average person who gets two or three "regular" scripts a month, this isn't a big deal.  For a CFer who gets 5 or more "rare" drugs a month, this is a huge financial drain.

Because of all of this, I spent all day yesterday on the phone with insurance companies, patient assistance companies, and pharmacies.  It was an exhausting day.  I cried a few times, wanted to yell a few times, and sat frustrated most of the time.  We pay $600 every month for insurance. This was awesome with last year's coverage, but this year it's a bit harder to make ends meet.  We did manage to get a few co-pays taken care of via patient assistance programs, but the reality is I still have to find a job (and fast).

About the tenth time I asked, "Hi, what was your name again? Ok, thanks," (always get names of people you talk to when dealing with this stuff!) I decided I needed to take a break and put on Muse (the equivalent of musical Xanax to me).  Within a few minutes of listening to one of their singles, Uprising, I was ready to take on the world again!  I decided that this song was, quite fittingly, my insurance theme song!  For those of you who have dealt with insurance companies in detail, please take a listen and tell me what you think!  It doesn't all relate, but I tell you when that chorus came on, I was belting it out!!

Before I watched this video, however, I must say that my parents sadly got the brunt of my ranting and raving about the insurance companies. The fact that insurance companies are all in it for the business of making money rather than helping patients. The fact that they enjoy making us sweat with worry about whether a drug or procedure will be covered.  The fact that they like to make dumb errors just to force us to call in and correct the same mistake four or five times.  Yes, my poor parents got to hear it all yesterday!

All of that said, David and I are figuring it out slowly and surely, and I promise that the insurance companies will NOT destroy us!! :) 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Room for Improvement

One thing that I like to do at least once a month (though it's more often once a week) is look at my life and find areas where I can improve.  I firmly believe that, as humans, we are prone to error and even negative behavior/words hurt others.  I like to reflect on things which I feel that there is room for improvement and then make a plan on what to do to fix the problem.  Over this month, I've realized a lot of areas that need a bit of improvement in my life.

1) Housekeeping.  I am not a good housekeeper, but I wish I was.  I have been working on implementing a daily cleaning schedule, originally taken from this wonderful site, and then adapted to fit my own needs.  There are still some days when I don't get much or any cleaning done (these are usually the days when I'm not feeling well, so I try not to get down on myself for this).

2) Work on my friendships more. I'm also not the easiest friend to have.  I often have to change or cancel plans because I'm not feeling well or because someone I'm going to hang out with is sick.  I don't take chances with my health, which means that I do take chances with my friendships, unfortunately.  That said, I'm trying to improve my messages sent to friends (through computer or text message), or just letting them know how much I care about them.  This is an ongoing process and certainly will not be fixed overnight.

3) Work on being a better wife.  My husband is amazing.  I could never ask for a better spouse, but I feel like I am not as good about being a great wife.  I am working on listening to him more to find out what he needs, and then working to give him what he needs.  Right now we are in a rough schedule where my treatments keep us up too late, which in turn causes crankiness and is bad on our health. We are averaging 5 hours of sleep a night - not good. I'm trying to work specifically on this problem right now.  The issue is that we are so tired by the time he gets home from work that we take a nap, which pushes everything off by a few hours.  I'm trying to push through this so that I can just do my nighttime treatment by 7 PM and be in bed before midnight.  

4) Exercise.  Ahhh, my least favorite, but most necessary part of my day.  I hate exercise, but my lungs crave it. I'm still working on getting in daily elliptical sessions while also including Yoga three times a week.  The weather around here has been pretty mild recently as well, which means I need to start working on taking Maya (our dog) for a daily walk. It would be good for her and me.  

5) Scheduling.  This one kind of ties in to every single other area I need to improve upon. I need to set up a daily schedule for treatments, exercise, sterilization, work time, housekeeping time, and cooking dinner. If I have a schedule that I follow (and stick to for more than a day or two) then our life will be much calmer and easier.  

So, for the remainder of this month (and next month) these are just some of the things I'm working on improving in my life.  I truly believe we all have these areas in our life, and I challenge you to look at what you can improve upon.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our True Love Story

Happy Valentine's Day to All!

Since it is a day filled with the celebration of love, I figured it was about time to share our true love story.

David and I met about six and a half years ago now, though I can hardly believe that much time has passed.

December 2006: One of our first pictures as a couple.

It was a warm day in July, 2005, and I had just recently graduated from high school, chosen a college, declared education as my major, and been accepted to the Saints Ambassador Corp at my college. It was definitely a time of change for me and while I was excited, I remember being extremely nervous.  I was on my way to my first orientation of Saints Ambassador Corp (SAC) which would begin to teach me how to give detailed, if not persuasive, tours of the university to prospective students.  Little did I know, I would meet my future husband at this training session.

I vividly remember meeting David that day, although everyone called him, "White Boy."  I remember thinking he was cute and adorable, and I remember how kind his eyes were.  I was intrigued, to say the least, but I was also already dating someone so I refused to let myself get too interested.  The day passed by and I vaguely remember much of it, except for my meeting with David and a few of the activities that we did throughout the training.  I then went home, gushed about my day to my parents, and anxiously waited for the start of the new year.

Another month dragged by, and I was finally moving into my dorm room.  Over the next few days, I had a lot of activities going on between SAC and Duns Scotus (the college honors society), and David was in both of these groups so we ended up seeing each other quite often.  I don't remember quite when we started hanging out together, just us, but it was soon after we met.  We found common interests in each other, and we enjoyed spending time together.  David was the nicest, most sincere, cutest, and gentlest man I had ever met, and he soon become one of my very best friends.

Despite the fact that I still had a boyfriend, David and I let our friendship (filled with flirting remarks and LOTS of hugs) bloom.  We went swinging in the park, rollerblading throughout the campus and the surrounding neighborhoods, and we spent a lot of time just talking.  The days we spent developing our friendship are some of the best memories I have from college.  He was always there to make sure I was ok, give me a compliment when I was down, or a hug when I needed it. He truly is an incredible person.

It was, however, a Catholic retreat that made us both realize there was a lot more than friendship in store for us.  The entire retreat, we were inseparable. I remember looking up at the stars, being out in the chilly fall air, and just thoroughly enjoying our time together.  I also remember how sad I was that the weekend retreat had to end, and then I vividly remember writing him a note about how close he was to me.  I told him that I loved him and that I eventually wanted to marry him.  Many years after writing this note, he would frame it and place it on our desk, where it remains to this day.

After that amazing time together, our friendship just continued to grow.  I was still dating someone else, but I wasn't happy.  I also knew, however, how hard it was to live with someone who has CF, and I began trying to push David away from the idea of being with me.  I told him everything, from the fact that I may never be able to have kids, to the fact that I will probably die well before my elderly years.  I explained the financial struggles associated with my disease, the heartache associated with it, the surgeries, PICC lines, and eventually probable transplant.  To my surprise, he didn't even flinch.

Since he didn't find it nearly as hard to accept as I did, I kept pushing him away further. I didn't want him to have to deal with all the pain and heartache of this disease, and I also wasn't quite ready to be in the relationship that would lead to marriage.  The combination caused me to put our friendship aside, a decision I still regret to this day.

Despite all of my pushing away, he kept pulling me closer.  Even though I was hurting him to no end, he was telling me that it would all work out.  He knew we'd make it, and he knew he wanted no one else but me forever.  Our relationship continued this way for another year.

Finally, in December 2006, I had completely ended my previous relationship, and David and I decided that I had to stop pushing him away because of my CF and let him make the decision.  Therefore, we realized it was time to go out on an official date together.  On December 14, he took me to downtown Chicago where we walked Michigan avenue, ate Mexican food, and shared a kiss overlooking an ice skating rink.  It was the best day of my life, and I knew I was hooked by this amazing prince charming.

We were inseparable as a couple from that point on. My friends cheered (as they had all been waiting for us to get together), my parents approved, and my heart was so happy.  A month later, David actually purchased an engagement ring for me, knowing that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

On December 14, 2008 David took me to a local park, which was adorned with lighted snowflakes throughout the trees, danced with me underneath a decorated gazebo (filled with with lights for Christmas), and then proposed to me. I screamed, jumped, cried, and of course said yes.  It was the perfect engagement, and I couldn't wait to tell everyone!

From there we planned our wedding, bought a house, and picked up a sweet golden retriever puppy.  On July 2, 2010 we exchanged our vows and began our life together as man and wife.  There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think of how blessed I am to have David in my life as my husband. He is my best friend, my lover, and my soul mate.  He truly is my prince charming.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Struggle with the Pregnancy Decision

As I continue to edge closer and closer to my first round of IVF, I find myself becoming more and more apprehensive about the whole process.  For someone who has suffered with anxiety for a few years, I've been surprised at myself for not feeling anxious throughout this entire time.  I've tried to explain to others why this anxiety exists, but it's hard to convey to them just what a CF pregnancy means.  Despite the fact that many don't fully "get" it, I feel the need to write about it.  What follows is a small splattering of the thoughts that occur when I think about being pregnant, and I apologize in advance for the randomness that will follow.

I'm going to come out, right now, and tell you what my biggest fear is: dying during pregnancy.

I know..I know..it sounds dramatic. The thing is, it's not all that dramatic.  I started following all the blogs and boards regarding CF pregnancy last June.  Shortly after starting, I became acquainted with Nicole, a fellow cyster who was already pregnant and doing well.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she had a massive bout of hemoptysis and she and her sweet unborn son, Robert, ended up passing away a short time later.  

Following that, I have heard a scattered story or two about someone with perfectly good lung function doing terribly, or even passing away during pregnancy.  I will tell you, it had me terrified.  

I'm not terrified anymore, but the very real fear is still present.  It nags at me deep down when I'm least expecting it.  It's the voice constantly saying, "Are you sure you want to do this? Give up your body for 9 months? Deal with weekly doctors appointments for various doctors that you will have to see during the pregnancy? Are you sure you want to take this risk?"  

Then, there's the other voice.

The side of me that says, "I want my own child, and my body can do this."  I think about all the pros that I have going for me: My lung function is normal.  It's 86%!  I'm stable and have been now for 5 years.  I've only had 2 PICC lines ever, and the second one was for a precautionary reason following sinus surgery. I'm going to be at home the entire pregnancy, which means more rest, and it limits me from catching something from a work environment.  I have the best doctors, and they ALL are confident and excited about me carrying a child. I do my treatments, faithfully, and I will continue that regimen once I'm pregnant, and after the pregnancy is done.  I have a support system that just doesn't end; If I'm sick, I'll have help.  I also know my body, and I will be on the phone with my doctors at the first sign that something isn't right.  

Obviously, I've made my mind up about this, but I still do worry.  I also think that's just the way mothers-to-be are, in general, let alone if they have a genetic condition against them.  I just don't want my time with my sweet husband to be compromised because of my selfishness to have a child.  Yet, I know I'm meant to be a mother. I know that fact with all my being.  It's my purpose for being on this Earth.  

All of this being said, my husband and I have come to a pretty solid, although difficult, decision.  We want to have our own child for our first child (if we can).  After that, we have decided that we will probably either adopt or work through the fostering system.  The truth is that we both want more than one child (at least, right now), but we're not comfortable with risking my health twice for it.

Deciding to have a child has been the  most difficult decision in my life, hands down.  I hope I am making the right choice, but I also have faith that God has a plan for me which will unfold exactly how it is supposed to.  I also am keeping the encouraging, uplifting stories of fellow cysters, who have not just fared well during pregnancy, but improved in my mind and heart.  

I know that the nagging voice will still be there, probably up until the birth of my child, but I am trying my best to quiet it and focus on the good.  

To all my cysters who have already made this choice, did you also find it to be the most difficult choice you've made?

To all my cysters who are currently making this choice, I keep you in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope you find peace and confidence in whichever decision you ultimately make.  Trust me, I know how hard it is.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Clinic Update: February 2012

Yesterday was a long but good day.  I had the earliest appointment I've ever had at U of C yesterday.  I ended up having to leave my house by 6 AM to make it to an 8:30 liver ultrasound. Overall, the morning commute wasn't nearly as bad as we expected. We made it up there by 7:45 and I even got in a little early for my ultrasound! This was great because in order to have my liver ultrasound, I was required to fast for 8 hours, which in turn made me quite crabby.

After the ultrasound was finished, my mom (who is amazing and comes with me to appointments when I need her) and I went to go grab some breakfast - I had an awesome Denver omelet which helped fill me up and make me a more tolerable person to be around.  Following breakfast, we headed up to my CF clinic.  My original appointment time was 11:30, but thankfully my clinic got me in much earlier! I ended up getting into a room at 10 AM.  I ended up seeing my respiratory therapist, my nurse practitioner, and my CF doc so it was (as always) a long appointment.  Here's an overview of what was said/done:

Lung Function: My FEV1 was surprisingly unchanged since the previous appointment.  Ok, technically it was down 1% but that's just a normal fluctuation.  Last time it was at 2.74 L which equates to 87%.  This time it was 2.72 L which equates to 86%. I'm definitely thrilled about this result.  Due to the few instances of hemoptysis as well as stopping the hypertonic saline 7% (due to hemoptysis), I expected it to be down.  I will gladly take that number, however!  My FVC was down a bit.  It was (not sure about numbers on this one) 140ish% last time, and I was down to 4.21 or 107% this time.  I'm not considerably concerned about this change.  A surprising one was my lower airways, my FEF 25-75% number.  Last time it was at 13% but this time it was up to 39%!!  Overall, great numbers.  Also, my docs listened and couldn't hear a single crackle in my chest.  Very happy about my lung function this time around.

Weight: Officially up to 119.6!! The docs are very happy, and I do believe this may have something to do with my increased lung function overall.  I'm putting, and keeping, weight on which in turn makes me healthier.

Changes to my Current Routine: Due to increased heartburn, I'm going to be started on Prilosec.  This should help with the heartburn as well as help my enzymes work better, so it sounds like a great plan to me!  I'm also going to start on Advair which should (hopefully) help to open up my lower airways and help increase my exercise tolerance, since I have stress-induced asthma.  Basically, Advair is a long-lasting bronchodilator with a bit of a steroid in it. I'm excited to see how it works! That said, my doctor wants me to wait until I start my next menstrual cycle since Advair is a category C for pregnancy drugs. She said that if I don't have to be on it for pregnancy, she would prefer it that way. In addition to this, I'm going off of 7% hyper-sal for good, and I'm going to start mixing my own 3%.  If I continue to have hemoptysis with this concentration, I will be put on Vitamin K but continue the hyper-sal.  My doctors really want me to get the benefit from hyper-sal, as I have never breathed better than when I was on it.

Liver: We should find out about my liver enzymes (previously elevated) and my liver ultrasound in a few days.  The tech said that my liver looked really good, but I have to wait to hear from the doctor to be sure.

Overall, fantastic news! This was another clinic visit that made me realize just how blessed I am. I work hard to keep myself healthy, but I could be working even harder - EVERYDAY exercise, that's my goal!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things I've noticed about CF women

When I began blogging, I also began seeking out fellow cysters (CF women) to talk to, ask questions to, and just to have someone to relate to.  Over the last few months, I've discovered that a CF woman is, in general, a totally different kind of woman. I'm not saying that we are better or worse than the normal woman, but I am saying that we are totally different. Let me explain (I will refer to CF women collectively as "we" for the remainder of the blog):

We have, in general, managed to find the really good guys to marry.  I have read through stories, blog posts, or individual conversations about many of the husbands of CFers.  I have found that they are, more often than not, really special, caring, genuinely nice, and dedicated husbands.  In addition to this, many of us are married by our early twenties and already looking to start a family. I think this deals with the fact that we are forced to grow up earlier.

We tend to be, on the whole, really happy people.  The vast majority of us don't sit and complain about having CF. We might have a day or two of moaning to each other about it, but then we get over it and move on.  We tend to be really optimistic and supportive of each other.  We tend to share ways that we are seizing life's golden opportunities.  We truly love to hear when a fellow cyster's lung function is up or that she manages to get pregnant.  We root for each other when we're in the hospital.  And this is all within our group.  Outside of it, we tend to live for the moment.  We often realize the blessings we have and we enjoy them as fully as possible! 

We understand just how necessary patience is.  With the groundbreaking FDA approval of Kalydeco, I was reminded of just how true this statement is. We wait years to get a medicine which will help improve our lung function or quality of lives.  We wait hours each time we have CF clinic days.  We often wait months to years for a transplant when we have to have one.  We also often wait years to get pregnant. Many CFers have fertility issues which makes getting pregnant very difficult.  And, most importantly, we are still waiting for a cure.  If we didn't have patience, we wouldn't make it through.  

We are no strangers to hospitals. Whether it's due to the clinic appointments every 3 months, numerous blood draws, additional doctor appointments (for example, I have had or still have to visit an ENT, endocrinologist, cardiologist, geneticist, and liver specialist), or the unfortunate but necessary hospital stays, we have all seen our fair share of hospitals.  I personally visit the University of Chicago, and I have now officially been to every single floor of that building to see a different doctor! I probably know that hospital better than some interns!

We have thought about our mortality, usually extensively. This just goes with the territory when you have CF.  Having a disease where the average life expectancy is only 38, means that you think about death a lot. We wonder which cold we won't be able to bounce back from, when we'll have to have a transplant, when we will become resistant to all current antibiotics, and more morbid topics that I won't go into.  That said, we often tend to focus on our mortality a bit too much.  I remember being sure I was going to die early, but then asked my doctors who in turn said not to worry about my life expectancy so much. They told me I was healthy, compliant, and positive. Those three things will take me far.

And the final way (though I am sure there are many other ways) we are different is . . . .

We talk about anything and everything without getting grossed out.  Now, don't get me wrong. I have female friends and we talk about a  lot of stuff, but my cysters and I just take it to the next level.  So what do we talk about that normal women either have no reason to talk about or are too embarrassed to talk about?  Mucus? Yep! Blood? Yep! Comparing scars and surgical procedures? Yep! Boogers? Yep! Ovulation? Yep! Life expectancy? Yep! Bathroom issues? Yep! With all of those topics on the table, we even share embarrassing stories which usually entail one of the above topics, if not more than one!

So overall, I have to say that CF women are different, but it's certainly not a bad thing.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012





We all crave it, and we all need it within our daily lives.  I am a big fan of treasuring my peaceful moments of the day.  Treasuring peace makes me feel happier and calmer overall, so I try to find as many opportunities as possible to allow for peace.  Since everyone’s idea of what activities are peaceful vary, I figured I would share some of my favorite peaceful activities.

1)      Reading in my house (the place of the activity is very important for this one) while my husband is either sleeping or playing a game.
2)      Praying
3)      During my Yoga sessions.  I probably feel the deepest sense of calm and self-awareness during this time.
4)      At Church. I don’t even necessarily have to be there for worship because just being inside the building makes me feel at peace.
5)      Talking with a good friend. 
6)      Walking my dog.  This one sometimes ends up making me frustrated depending on what happens during the walk.  More often than not, however, I find the time relaxing.
7)      During my nebulizing treatments. This one may seem odd, but I look at treatment time as 100% me-time. I make sure to do a fun activity whether it’s reading, writing, talking online, or (my newest time-consuming obsession) surfing Pinterest.

What activities allow you to feel peace?

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Yesterday and today I've been experiencing a tightness when breathing.  It was present late last night and lasted for about 3 or 4 hours.  Doing my treatment and then coughing a lot helped to clear the tightness. The whole day today it was gone as well, but it returned this evening again.  This time it does feel like it may be more muscular than actual lung tightness.  That said, I decided to start my Cayston up a week early. I'm not sure if any of you have done this, but it worried me to feel this two days in a row.  I figure a week early probably can't hurt too much.  My clinic appointment is this Thursday, so I figure I'll hold off on calling the doctor (I just came off of a two week run of Cipro not even a month ago).  She won't be able to see me any earlier, and I don't have a fever at all.

Sometimes the constant juggling act of this disease is ridiculous!  I hate wondering if this is a major infection or just something that will pass.  My sugars ARE up, my tiredness is more prevalent, and my chest feels tight.  Other than that, I feel good!  Irritating.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Tale of the Crazy Ovulating Lady

**As you can PROBABLY infer from the title of this post, this is not a post for the squeamish. Those who can't handle words like mucus or cervix should just wait for the next post.**

I have never seen a complete episode of Friends.  I know, this probably makes me as un-American as one can be, but it's the truth.  The funny thing is, I vividly remember one certain scene from the show.  I have no idea who was trying to get pregnant, but someone had used an OPK kit and demanded that they have sex immediately, despite the fact that they were babysitting someone else's (possibly Rachel's) child.  I saw this scene, laughed, and thought, "I'll never be like that. That's just crazy."

Well, my dear friends, I'm crazy.

Yesterday mid-morning, when I got my smiley face on my OPK, I planned on jumping my husband the minute he walked through the door.  Due to various circumstances, it didn't happen the way I planned, and I figured "Meh, we'll take care of it soon enough."  We had a dinner date with my parents and I picked up a gallon of Grapefruit juice on the way, per a friend's suggestion, as a possibility to thin my previously non-existent cervical mucus.

I drank down a cup of the grapefruit juice, which was DELICIOUS, and figured if nothing else it was healthy for me.  For those of you wondering, I did check to make sure no medications interacted with it. Thankfully, none of them do.  Some women have suggested Robitussin or Mucinex, but the former has made my lungs really junky in the past which in turn made me nervous to try either.  Grapefruit juice seemed like such a natural and easy attempt. It was worth a try.

We had a great dinner, came home, enjoyed our evening and went to bed.  I did two things prior to sleeping, I checked my cervical mucus which was non-existent, and I did another OPK, because I was 50% thinking the first one was just a fluke. Sure enough, there was still a smiley face. My husband was thrilled too, which I never expected.  Who knew a couple could be so happy about ovulation? Honestly.

I slept hard, and woke up this morning to my phone going off. I checked my mucus again, not expecting anything different this soon after drinking the juice.  Well, I now get the whole term: egg-white cervical mucus.  I can tell you that grapefruit juice is pretty amazing stuff.  I sat there for about 3 minutes in utter disbelief.  Then, I became...crazy ovulation lady.

I ran out of the bathroom, woke up my still sleeping husband and all I could say is, "NOW!" Nothing else mattered at that point in time. There could have been tornado sirens going off and I wouldn't have cared. Needless to say, my husband thinks I'm crazy.  Heck, I think I'm crazy.  Never in a million years did I expect to be crazy about ovulating.  Perhaps it's because I've been waiting for over half a year to experience EWCM, who knows.  Regardless, I get it now..I get why women go crazy over ovulating - I've officially joined the club.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Pretty Good 48 Hours

So yesterday, I mentioned that I would blog about how good of a day I had on Thursday.  It's still only 11 PM over here, so I'm not breaking my promise.

Yesterday, I ended up spending the day with an old friend.  We had grown distant over the years due to various reasons.  Although we did nothing but sit on the couch and talk, it was such a beautiful time.  I have always hated that we had grown apart, and she had too.  We spent hours just catching up on each other's lives (realistically, it was a LOT of me talking and her not saying quite as much. I couldn't stop talking!).  We have both thoroughly missed each other, and we're looking forward to starting our friendship back up again.

By the time we dropped her off at the train station, my husband was shocked.  He had no idea how close we had been as children, and he was surprised by how happy I was.  I was pretty surprised myself, and I am so thoroughly happy it happened.

I can't WAIT to see her again!!

Now, to change directions a bit.

*This is the point where, if you are squeamish about anything relating to pregnancy or ovulating, you should stop reading.*

Today, I slept most of the day to try and fight off whatever sort of infection I have starting.  We'll see if it worked as I actually have some energy at 11 PM...pretty impressive.

When I woke up in the late morning, I did what I have been doing for the last SEVERAL months - I used an OPK (Ovulation Predictor Kit).  I have done these religiously month after month with no luck.  Today, for the very first time, there was a smiley face.  That little smiley face made me smile SO much, it was hard to explain.

I know I'm slated to begin IVF, but honestly we're going to continue trying until I have to start the injections. If we can POSSIBLY avoid IVF (and miracles DO happen from time to time, so there's always a possibility), we would be thrilled.  So, I've been testing with OPKs.  The fact that I finally got an LH surge is amazing.  It almost makes me want to suggest a few rounds of unmedicated IUI first, to see if the cervical mucus is really the issue.

After this, I was considering trying Robitussin or Mucinex to thin the mucus, as I have heard from other CFers that they have had successful attempts at this (and ended up with a BFP two weeks later).  A friend suggested grapefruit juice which has been known to do the same thing.  Well, I picked up a bottle of grapefruit juice and drank a decent amount. I'm going to continue to drink a fair amount for the next few days.  It's worth a try, right?

We'll see what happens I guess. I just know, I'm having a pretty good couple of days! :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hmmm...Lung Infection or Just Tired?

I will blog more about what a wonderful day I had today, tomorrow, but for now just a quick post.

Yesterday, I was exhausted. I slept..a lot. I woke up from 2 separate naps, still feeling worn out.  I was thinking, "Hmm wonder if this is a lung infection coming on,"

Today, I woke up with TONS of energy, but around 3 o'clock I started feeling miserable - exhausted, lung pain, weak, achey.  I then ate dinner and found some renewed energy.  Then, two hours later, it was gone.  I feel the same way. It doesn't make me feel to happy!  I hope it's just exhaustion, but I worry it might be something more.  Guess we'll see what happens in the next day or two.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To Those Who Have Donated to the CFF

This post is dedicated to all of you have ever donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) and to my dear friends who have the G551D mutation of CF.

For those of you who have selflessly given up your money or time to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, you have helped create miracles. Remember a few months back, I mentioned a drug, named Kalydeco, which should greatly improve the life of people with the G551D mutation? Well, as of yesterday it has become FDA approved and will start to be used by patients with that particular mutation.

The price tag of the drug is at an annual cost of $300,000 a year which means that insurance problems will be the next struggle for those who are able to take the drug.  The reason for this high price tag is that Kalydeco is the FIRST drug to treat the UNDERLYING cause of CF.  It works to correct the problem in the gene.

Although I can not use this medication, because my mutation is DDF508 (the most common mutation which I share with 90% of the CF community), it is the biggest step toward a cure we have ever seen.  The CF community is all abuzz, and rightfully so.  We are all anxious to hear that this disease has been cured!  Your donations have helped to create this groundbreaking, miracle drug.  Thank you for all your contributions.

To my fellow CFers who have the G551D mutation, I honestly could not be happier for you.  I hope that your weight improves, your lung function improves, and that this drug adds YEARS to your life.  You all deserve it so much, and this is a reminder of why we all have to keep fighting each and every day.

Now, let's get moving on a DDF508 pill, shall we?