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.