Sharing My CF With Colleagues

As I have grown in my professional career, I have gone from speaking as little as I can about cystic fibrosis at work to being open about having CF and how it affects me. 

| 3 min read
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Matthew Lail
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I recently transferred to a new role within the large organization I work for. While doing all the fun and exciting new-hire paperwork, right on cue, I had a coughing fit. That “pneumonia-sounding, face-turns- red, someone's-about-to-call-911” type. The HR representative, in the most genuine way, asked, “Sweetie, can I get you a cough drop?” That was all I needed to respond with, “Sure, I have cystic fibrosis -- I cough a lot, but I promise I'm not contagious.”

Years ago, I would have offered some lame excuse of, “Oh, thanks, I just have a horrible cold!” Owning CF and realizing what a huge role it plays in my life has been a major step for me. The process of being able to be open about it with someone at work was even bigger. But knowing that CF isn't going away -- and that it will likely cause a few more problems for me as I get older -- has forced me to be honest with my colleagues and myself.

Usually after the first day boredom of paperwork has died down, I pop into my supervisor's office and offer up a, “Hey, ya got a sec?” I take this as an opportunity to share with him or her that I have CF, what it is, how it affects me and that, from time to time, I will miss work or an appointment. By doing this, when I do need time off it is not a shocker. I also try and show up to work a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late on the days I feel up to it. I feel it shows that I'm committed to my job and when I need time off for an appointment or sick day, it makes it that much easier to request.

I use the same mentality with my co-workers and close colleagues. If someone asks about my cough or makes a “You look really tired today!” comment, I use that as an opportunity to share with them that I have CF and educate them on it. It usually ends up being a short and sweet conversation.

Working is something that I enjoy, and I plan on doing it as long as I can. But, it's just plain hard when you have CF. We share the same 40-hour week roles as our non-CF colleagues; however, we do it amid so much additional responsibility. I am starting an IV “clean out” in a few days, and I know that I will have to take my IVs into work and infuse on my lunch break. But I know that by being upfront and honest about the fact that I have CF, it will make it that much easier and less awkward for everyone involved.

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Matthew was diagnosed with CF in 1988 at the age of 3, and later with CF-related diabetes (CFRD) at 14. Matthew works as a grants specialist for the Virginia Department of Health -- a job he is passionate about because of the health care aspect. Matthew earned his M.B.A. from Liberty University. Prior to this, Matthew earned his B.S. in management and organizational development and his A.A.S. in information and communication systems. In his spare time Matthew enjoys traveling and recently visited London, Paris and Rome. In 2014, Matthew went skydiving in Denver and climbed Silver Dollar Mountain.

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