Growing up, I never really considered a life as a professional because of my cystic fibrosis, but my curiosity and determination helped me beat the odds. Throughout my life, I have crossed paths with some amazing people who have poured strength, encouragement, blessings of all sizes, and love into my life — especially my mother. It is only right that I pay it forward and plant seeds just as those around me have done.
During my life, I have spent an umpteen number of days in the hospital, where I saw a lot and asked a lot of questions. Based on this experience, I knew I would be an excellent nurse.
However, the greatest challenge in this career path was knowing my limits and seizing the moments when I was doing and feeling well.
Having a chronic condition and being a nurse seemed like mixing fire and ice, but for me it was a match made in heaven.
For the first few years, life as a nurse was good. I was always transparent about my chronic condition (although not when I was interviewing for jobs). I was determined to be punctual and reliable, so I planned doctor visits on days off or took paid leave. During those long, 12-hour nursing shifts, I had the opportunity to display a high level of compassion for my patients. Soon, I became a teacher for nursing students, and then for nurses new to the profession, and finally for those who were new to the organization but were seasoned nurses.
After eight years in the acute care (hospital) setting, I made a tough decision to leave bedside nursing on the recommendation of my CF doctor. I was heartbroken and a bit discouraged, thinking I would no longer be able to make an impression on the lives of my patients if I was not working in a hospital setting. However, I remembered that seed of determination that was planted inside me and has grown over the years. I leaned on my faith through this transition to a new type of nursing.
Entering the ambulatory care (clinic) setting was frightening, but I understood this was for the best and that although I had grand plans, cystic fibrosis still played a major role in my life choices. I had to explain to a new group of health care professionals and physicians that my cough was not contagious and yes, I had eaten three bags of chips and cookies, and I was still hungry. I had to survive the raging highs and scary lows of managing CF-related diabetes. Nonetheless, I gave my all to everything I did, determined yet again to excel. Enzymes, snacks, inhalers, and vest — it was not always easy to transition into a new setting. However, if we let fear take control, there would be no research, new medications, nor older CFers to tell their stories.
My resilience, determination, and willingness to go above and beyond on those good days did not go unnoticed. Perseverance has been key to my success, as well as understanding in life the “average” person may not get it right the first time. So, I gave myself a little grace. In doing so, I managed to beat the odds — earning two degrees, accepting a leadership opportunity, and getting into the prestigious Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. That’s no easy feat even for the “average” person let alone someone with CF.
CF has been the foundation for my strength and determination — not staying down too long, knowing I will come back 100 times stronger. In becoming a CF warrior, I have been eager to inspire and light the fire in the mothers and fathers of CFers and in my own CF peers.
Forming an amazing physician-patient relationship also contributed to my success professionally and personally. I understand CF is not just a physical chronic condition; it also requires mental and emotional support from friends, family, and professionals.
If I can give words of encouragement to the CF community, it would be that CF is not for the weak. We are a small community beating the odds every day. Not many people can say they know how to access their own port-a-cath (implanted port) by standing in front of the mirror. That’s strength. Not many people can say they spend two weeks at a time in the hospital several times a year. That’s perseverance. Not many people can eat at least several thousand calories a day and not gain a pound. That’s a blessing.
My profession is nursing, but I am a CF warrior 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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