Finding Freedom Through Online Gaming

Living with an illness like advanced lung disease can be incredibly isolating and limiting. But I’ve found a way to connect with others and make my own adventures through online gaming.

April 16, 2024 | 4 min read
A headshot of Sheila Tines
Sheila Tines
A selfie of Sheila Tines wearing supplemental oxygen

I have always been a gamer — from gobbling up ghosts and jumping across lily pads and busy roads to being the best dang cowgirl and super stealthy assassin I can be. Video games are not just for kids. Trust me — I am 56, and I game daily! Video games offer people a chance to do things they would NEVER do in real life for a multitude of reasons — whether it’s too futuristic, illegal, or just an unattainable goal for personal reasons. The bottom line is that video games can be an escape and offer the adventure of a lifetime that may otherwise not be feasible.

For me personally, video games represent FREEDOM! As my cystic fibrosis progresses and gets bigger and bigger, my world gets smaller and smaller. It is simply impossible for both things to grow at the same time — it just isn’t going to happen. Ten years ago, my life was so different. Yes, I still had CF, and I was sick and needed to go in the hospital two to three times a year. But, there were a lot of good days in between. I made my own adventures and had freedom in those days. That’s when I played video games as a hobby. My life has changed so much over the last decade. I am essentially homebound, and I have a lot of bad days and now spend much more time in the hospital.

I play video games for my sanity now, as a way to socialize and escape the harsh reality of my life and the limitations that go with it.

The socialization factor alone can help so many people, not just CFers. There are many people who live in isolation for many reasons, which is no fun at all. Playing online with friends alleviates some of that loneliness. There are many nights you can find me — QueenSquirrelly — and my friend — ListYourSelf — chillin’ in my moonshine shack, dancing, and maybe enjoying a drink or two, virtually of course. Some nights, it’s a full posse running a wagon or working together to take down a cartel. It is liberating!

I see gaming as a missed opportunity by the medical world, honestly. Why can’t we think outside the box a bit and use gaming to aid with stress, loneliness, or anxiety along with many other medical conditions? I bring my PS4 with me to the hospital to help with stress, as well as to have some sense of socializing. 

In fact, I met someone in a game one day, an older gentleman. We started playing regularly and it turned out he was sick as well — he had cancer and was in hospice. He had NEVER gamed before in his life. But when he got sick and could no longer run his horse ranch business, someone suggested he play Red Dead Redemption 2 — a western set in the 1800s — as a way for him to still “live” that life. Many days, we don’t even “play” the game or do anything except talk while on a trail ride. For him, it is regaining the life he had to give up. For me, it is seeing sights I have never — nor will ever — see. It is freedom.

When I play video games, I am not on oxygen, not short of breath, and — most importantly — not limited. I am strong, fierce, accomplished and can do ANYTHING I want to do.

It’s so empowering. QueenSquirrelly has no sick days. She is never in need of bed rest, treatments, CPT, pills, none of it. And if she dies, she simply respawns. Anyway, those are my thoughts on gaming. Maybe you should try it out! Signing off to go get online and cowgirl it up!

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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Emotional Wellness | Social Life and Relationships
A headshot of Sheila Tines

Sheila was diagnosed with CF in her early 40s despite being very sick her entire life. Her rare mutations make it difficult to access effective therapies and assistance. Although she was listed for transplant twice, she has never received a transplant. Sheila worked as a sales coordinator and trainer for a major software company before retiring to manage her CF full time. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, crafting, gaming, and playing with her two kitties — Niklaus and Salvatore. Klaus loves to play fetch!

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