How I Stayed Positive With CF

Despite letting negative thoughts get to me when I was younger, I learned to make the most of any situation. This positive mindset has helped me succeed in college, and I want to help pass along what I have learned.

| 6 min read
Dugan Reilly

I'm a 21-year-old living with cystic fibrosis, and I am a junior at High Point University in North Carolina, where I am studying entrepreneurship. Over this past year, I have been reflecting on my mindset living with cystic fibrosis. I'm blown away that my motivation has actually increased during this time. Before this past year I had adopted a negative mindset, resulting in a negative life. Let me explain.


I was diagnosed with CF when I was 5 months old and was the first child to be diagnosed in that hospital. Growing up with CF is all I've ever known; and it has come with many difficulties. As my classmates were moving onto the next grade, I was drowning in work and dealing with an illness. As a result, I was held back in first grade. Not only did it hurt my self-esteem, but it hurt my relationships and ability to make friends. Even though I was young, I learned early on what it was like to be left behind.

I had surgery when I was 8 years old to have a feeding tube put into my stomach. I started to get very down on myself from the months of being in the hospital year after year, which led to a lot of negative thoughts. I was not as athletic as the others, did not attend playdates, and did not participate in a lot of activities that many kids my age were doing. I was very self-conscious about my body, took a lot of different medications, and had to do countless treatments during my school days.

Despite these negative aspects, I have always found a way to smile every day even if I was struggling extra hard.

I think a lot of other people with CF might agree that most, if not all, of our anxiety and depression come from the feeling of not being as equal to others.

We go through so much more at a young age than many other people have to go through.

Yes, this does take a toll, but you have to turn a negative situation into a positive situation. When you're in the hospital or are very sick and start developing negative thoughts, why don't you find ways to better yourself for the future? The two things I wish I told myself at an earlier age while I was in the hospital: read motivational and self-development books and watch educational videos on YouTube to learn skills that interest you (real estate, photography/videography, starting your own business, investing). But this is the main idea I want to preach about: We are not anything less than normal human beings; we are much greater -- we are superheroes!

I want to talk about some of my awesome experiences to show other people with CF that anything is possible. Because I was in the hospital so much, I was not able to be as athletic as my friends; but no matter how little I could practice my favorite sports, I still had the best experience I could have. For example, I was able to throw out the first pitch at the huge Little League tournament that takes place at Dreams Park in Cooperstown, N.Y. Also, in my Little League years, I made an all-star team and received an award from a foundation for always keeping a smile on my face no matter what I had been through. In my high school years, I was able to compete as a three-sport athlete in- baseball, basketball, and golf. Last, but not least, I was able to attend college and to this day be very successful in all aspects of my life.


The piece of advice I would give to my fellow CFers would be to have a schedule and define what you want to get done in 30-minute-1-hour time blocks. Also, figure out what time of the day you like to do your more challenging work, and when you want to do your easy work. This will help you go through every day feeling like you have completed everything you want to. With this schedule, you want to wake up at a reasonable time every day. You want to make sure you get eight hours of sleep every night, so figure out what works best for you -- whether it's 11 p.m.-7 a.m. or 12 a.m.-8 a.m. Yes, you might have to give up some things to get a solid eight hours of sleep, but trust me, it will show massive results toward your goals if you get eight hours. You will feel sharper in the morning, more awake, more motivated, and especially more clear in your mindset.

The last point I want to preach to other people with CF is: No matter what we have dealt with, keep your head up high, turn the situation from being negative to a positive, and believe in yourself.

We are superheroes no matter what others say, and no one is stopping us from our goals and dreams. If you have a dream in your life, no matter how unrealistic it may be, don't stop dreaming and take action. I can't wait to see all my fellow CFers become successful.

Interested in sharing your story? The CF Community Blog wants to hear from you.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Dugan is a student at High Point University in North Carolina. He is passionate about helping other people with cystic fibrosis. Dugan recently started a program that helps people with cystic fibrosis design their dream reality, become the pro version of themselves, and be able to achieve every one of their goals, starting today. You can follow his podcast on Spotify, follow him on Instagram, or schedule a free call to talk with him about anything at

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