Since living with cystic fibrosis and receiving a lung transplant 11 years ago, I have always made my health a priority. When the COVID-19 pandemic began my vigilance was taken to a new level. Being a part of the CF community, I know the importance of thoroughly washing my hands and the safety that wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart from others provides. In 2020, the world was instructed to stay home and to not attend large gatherings as we didn’t know enough about the virus and how it spread. Many people spent the holidays with their immediate family to limit the spread and I was no different. My fiancé and I spent the holidays alone until Christmas 2020 where we spent a day with my immediate family in a garage. Because a lot of friends and family were also following the guidelines, nobody felt like they were missing out.
Now that more people are vaccinated, many feel that they can loosen their grip on attending gatherings with family and friends for the upcoming holidays. As the country has returned to a somewhat pre-pandemic lifestyle, I personally maintain very strict guidelines on where -- and with whom -- I gather to avoid exposing myself to COVID or any other virus. Unfortunately, this has led to very uncomfortable situations and has caused some awkwardness in relationships when I have had to decline invitations to events or limit invitations to gatherings I hosted. My intent is not to hurt anyone by doing either of these things but sometimes people just don’t understand why I have to say no.
With being immunocompromised, it is unknown if I have built up antibodies -- or even how long the antibodies I may have will last -- so I operate as though I am unvaccinated despite having received the initial doses and my third dose more recently. Social gatherings have -- at times -- caused me anxiety after the fact because I wonder if I was as safe as I could have been even though I took the proper precautions in the moment.
I have realized that I need to do whatever I can to lessen my emotional stress and the majority of people closest to me accept that and are more than willing to take extra steps to make me feel comfortable.
The holidays are a time meant to spend with family and friends celebrating all the good in our lives. In the last two years, I’ve made an effort to connect with family and friends in more creative ways so that I maintain my social life while keeping my health the top priority.
Cystic fibrosis can define you, but only if you let it. It is a part of who I am, but it does not stop me from living my life. At times, the weather has been so nice, I have been able to find days that are warm enough to spend outside with friends, maybe even lighting a fire. If the weather is not as nice, I spend time with friends who I know have been careful, and we wear masks and keep windows open. Additionally, when friends gather but I don’t feel as safe and decide not to attend, I will video call with the group, so it feels like I am not missing out. Last Christmas we did a virtual Secret Santa with friends and opened our gifts on a Zoom call. One friend even made cookie deliveries to everyone involved (even out of state) to make it more festive.
With the holidays fast approaching, those living with cystic fibrosis, please continue to be safe and mindful of the people you gather with as your health is paramount. To those who have loved ones with CF, please remain patient and inclusive not only during the holiday season, but every day.
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