The Force of Impact

Good Monday to you all, and welcome to the beginning of another week!

Because this topic is a bit time sensitive, I would like to share it with you now.

As I pointed out in my last post, I have come to accept the fact that this blog can change into something else. In the near future, this change will start to take shape. Interestingly enough, I am writing this post in the spirit of one reason I started this blog.

During my time as a patient at Denver Children’s Hospital, I became very well acquainted with the people who produced the CF quarterly newsletter. As I was making my transition to the big boy hospital, one of the editors approached me about a problem she had during clinics with pre-teen and adolescent CF patients. She described to me how they struggle with the whys: Why do I do my treatments if they aren’t making me better? Why do I take all these pills if they don’t seem to help? Why, what’s the point?

It’s hard to answer all those questions, even as a doctor or nurse who deals with CF everyday, because they don’t know what it’s like to be the one who has to do all of the treatments only to see little, if any, improvement. At that point, I offered my services, so to speak.

As a CF patient myself, I could understand what these kids are going through: an adolescent thinking that CF will always run your life and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I also understood the feeling of being told over and over again by someone who does NOT have CF: “Hey, I know what it’s like. You have a life you want to live but you have your treatments to do twice, three times a day and there isn’t enough time to do it all. I know, I get it.” No, I’m sorry, you DON’T. How can you tell someone you know what they are going through when you really don’t have any idea?

I told the editor that maybe I could write something for the newsletter that is sent home to the parents of these kids and share my story and show that a CF patient can lead a normal life and have a future ahead of them beyond the pills and treatments. Through this brainstorming, this idea came to be: Start a blog for adolescents to talk to an older CF patient that can tell them that there’s more to life than being suffocated by CF.

It didn’t really happen how I had hoped, but this last January, I received an e-mail from a patient at Children’s that was referred to me and my blog as an outlet and someone to talk to. Flattered of course, I did my best to talk him through the changes he was going through and his thought processes about his treatments. We exchanged a few e-mails and the biggest thing I tried to reinforce was to stay positive, communicate with his doctors, and don’t let CF live life for him.

I had sent him a lengthy e-mail and did not hear a response for quite some time. After a few weeks, I let this e-mail slip into the depths of my inbox and become out of sight, out of mind.

Just last week, I received and e-mail from him but I was disappointed at first and let me tell you why…

Lately, I have been not only dealing with my own complications with CF, but also dealing with a lot of emotional distress that I haven’t quite sorted out completely. I was disappointed in myself: “How can I read this and respond positively when my outlook lately has been leaning heavily on the negative side?” After a minute of staring at the unopened digital mail on my screen, I took a deep breath and told myself I would do the best I could to offer my advice, but also to be honest with him and tell him that I have lately been feeling down on myself. I felt it was important for him to know that I, too, can be vulnerable.

It wasn’t an e-mail looking for advice, though. After a few lines, I realized he was just updating me on how he has been doing. A sigh of relief passed by my lips as I then continued to read more selfishly loose rather than engaged. But, my mentality changed when I reached the end of his e-mail, which I would like to share with you:

“I am doing great, I am smiling and living life the way I want to. Thank you so so much for your support, you have no idea how grateful I am. You have changed my life for the better. Yes I went through really hard time and cuts and bruises, but in the end it all worked out. And this isn’t the end this is only the beginning.”

To be honest, I sat in awe, not really believing what I was reading. Really? Me? My positive attitude, my words, my support got you through a rough time and changed your life for the better? Me?

Suddenly, none of my problems and emotional distress mattered. He had lifted my spirits and my problems just didn’t seem relevant anymore.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? What positive energy can do and how it can come full circle? At first, I shared my positive outlook on a gloomy situation. Several months later when I’m feeling down in the dumps, he returned the favor; he had a similar impact on me.

This exchange got me thinking about how I have been searching for a remedy for myself in the rut in which I have been stuck. I have been reaching out to friends, family, and even co-workers clamoring for someone to help me, when in fact helping others with their struggles is the cure. I realized when I focus on someone else rather than myself and help them, it gets me to forget about my hardships. Knowing I can help make a difference in someone else’s life gets me thinking much more positively about my own troubles.

We are here together for each other. We were meant to impact one another, and we do whether knowingly or ignorantly. Every action, positive or negative, affects the people around us more than you know.

Having said that, strive to be positive toward others because you never know when they will call you, text you, e-mail you, or show up at your doorstep to say, “Thank you.” Even if it is someone you come in contact with for only 60 seconds, you can have a profound impact on that person’s life.

It has been nine months, and this young man that I hardly know took the time to e-mail me to say, “Thank you for your support. You changed my life,” even though at the time I never thought or ever had the intention of having such an impact on someone else.

I have to say, it is one of the best feelings in the world knowing that your presence—whether that be e-mail or otherwise—had such a positive impact on somebody’s life.

My hope: everyone gets a chance to call this feeling their own at some point in their life because there is truly nothing else like it.

Until next Monday!

Keep Fighting, Keep Breathing, Live Today, Say Tomorrow

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