Being a young adult is exciting, and it means new responsibilities and new opportunities. But, it also means you face more challenges.
In recent years, I've graduated high school and college and moved away from my family into the city with one of my best friends. Becoming more independent has meant keeping up with my treatments and taking care of myself, which took some getting used to.
Currently, I'm at my first full-time job as a web developer -- a position in which I'm always learning, collaborating with clients across industries, and seeing projects through from beginning to end. Now, I'm thinking about going to grad school to focus on technology and health care, two things I'm passionate about. And I can't wait to open these new chapters of my life.
But not all of this has come easy. While I was a sophomore in college, my health deteriorated and I was put on IV antibiotics for six months. Despite this, I chose to continue taking classes. It was quite a balancing act between my health and school. On top of coursework, I had a few short hospital admissions and plenty of doctors' appointments.
I also had the added stress of sharing something I was usually quiet about. I wasn't very public about my CF, so having to tell my college friends and professors that I had a chronic disease was difficult at a time when I was not feeling up to it. Having a drawer of IV infusion balls in the fridge makes you a lot more open about CF with your friends though.
I dealt with a similar situation when I had to go to the hospital while I was working. I had trouble figuring out the right way to tell my boss that I have CF and would have to take some time off. Even though I am doing well now, I still struggle with how to be more open with others about my CF.
Last year, as these things were on my mind, I helped plan -- and later participated in -- BreatheCon, a virtual event for adults with CF. I didn't know what to expect, but it was a total game-changer for me. Suddenly, I went from messaging people with CF on Facebook, to virtually speaking to them face-to-face. I can't even begin to say how important this event was in connecting me to others who are going through the same kinds of challenges. Being honest with this group of wonderful people with CF and hearing their stories has helped me slowly become more open about CF with my friends, family, and co-workers.
So when I found out that there were more virtual events being planned -- and one of them focused on life as a young adult -- I jumped at the chance to get involved. As the chair for the upcoming CF MiniCon: Young Adult on Sat., July 22, I'm so excited to be planning, and most of all, attending, this event with so many of my peers.
The young adult working group has put together an awesome, diverse lineup of breakout sessions that will get at the heart of what it means to be a young adult with CF and all the emotions and growing pains that go with it.
Best of all, people with CF planned everything from the session topics to identifying the speakers and facilitators (and the BreatheCon and CF MiniCon logos … I designed them!). We decide what we want to talk about, and there are no hidden agendas and no sugar-coating from anyone.
I would never speak for everyone with CF, but I do believe each of us has different experiences living with the disease; that's what makes this MiniCon special. In this virtual, judgment-free environment, you get to focus on what's important to you. Whether it's talking about romantic relationships, starting a new job, or keeping on top of your mental health, you're free to say whatever is on your mind. No matter where you are in your life, we all have something to share and something to gain from connecting with one another.
Ultimately, this MiniCon is whatever you want it to be. Chat one-on-one with other people with CF, listen to people share their stories, and sign up for small group video breakout sessions to get to know others with CF from around the country and around the world.
Working on the team to present CF MiniCon: Young Adult has allowed me to meet so many new people and learn and share so many things that only people with CF can relate to. No matter how you want to participate, we can't wait to have you join.
To join Kathleen at CF MiniCon: Young Adult, register by July 19 at CFF.org/minicon. All adults with CF age 18 and over are welcome.