My name is Nicole, I'm 26 years old, and I am a Cystic Fibrosis warrior. Diagnosed at age 4 my parents had no idea what Cystic Fibrosis was. All they knew was what the doctors told them, "Her lungs are bad, she's terminal, and she likely won't live to see her teenage years." Many people can't remember things that happen when they're that young. But I do.
I remember being told they found out why I cough so much and why I always get belly aches. I remember being told I had to start taking pills, and lots of them. I remember being told I had to stay in the hospital for a sleepover, but I wasn't allowed to come home until I learned how to swallow pills. I remember the needles. So many needles. Blood work and IV's, beeping machines and oxygen masks. I remember being alone. Alone with nurses and doctors who became like family. And I remember being scared. Being so young and being told that you're never going to get better? That's scary, and it wasn't something that anyone sugar coated. That's what made me who I am today.
At age 16 I was also diagnosed with Diabetes. My pancreas just really doesn't like me! My other illness you ask? On top of CF, and being diabetic, I suffer from anxiety, depression, and severe malabsorption syndrome, all for which I take medications/needles for. Around 100 pills a day actually, and about 5-7 needles. I've also had over 150 hospital admissions, 4 sinus surgeries to remove nasal polyps that continue to grow inside my nasal cavity, a broncoscopy to suck mucus out of my lungs and get a good culture, tonsils removed, tubes in my ears. I've had several feeding tubes to keep weight up while I'm sick, as well as NG tubes that go from my nose to my stomach which gets pumped with medicine to help my digestive system when it just doesn't want to cooperate; and my most favorite surgery - my port a cath insertion! Having a catheter in my chest is my SAVIOR. No more collapsing veins while trying to get an IV for my long-term antibiotics. It's there, it's permanent and it's easy as heck to use. In fact, I've taught nurses how to access it while in hospital, and I also do my own flushes every month to make sure the line is clear from blood clots.
CF makes you smart, you know. A lot of my family and friends often treat me as if I'm a nurse. Always naming off symptoms, and asking my opinions. Because they know 'Nicole has been through it all!'
I would love to become a nurse and help others but I wouldn't want to risk my health or anyone else's so I chose a different path in life. I didn't graduate with my friends on time as I was sick and living on my own trying to keep a full-time job to pay bills. But I went back and graduated from the Nova Scotia Community College with my High School diploma. A couple years later I made the choice to enroll in college. "What's the point," they said. "What if you get too sick and can't finish?" they said. My response: "But I can." And I did! I enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at NSCC and I graduated with honors, and second highest in my class. I competed in a Culinary black box competition and brought home a silver medal. And I walked across that stage, received my diploma, and proved all the doubters wrong. I moved forward with my culinary career for a couple of years but then it got hard. Hot kitchens, long hours, etc. So I decided to switch my path of life and find a job that wouldn't be so hard on my health. I then became an income tax preparer and office administrator, which i have been doing since. Just because I get sick often and have a disability does not stop me from working. I just had to change what I was doing to make sure my health wasn't being jeopardized.
My boyfriend, our pitbull furbaby Lexi, my close friends and family members are my everything. They watch me get sick, come to doctors appointments, and comfort me when I'm having one of those "I JUST DONT WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE" days. My friends are like my family. Especially my Cysters and Fibros. Those are people that get you, because they're going through it too. The hard part? Getting close to people with the same terminal illness as you. Forming bonds and friendships. Then they get sick. And they don't get better. Sometimes they die. I've had to attend far too many funerals of close friends who's battle was over. And that makes me fight harder. I fight for Megan, I fight for the Coffill twins, I fight for Amanda, Alex, and for Bryan. I fight for all who were not able. I am determined to grow and be alive when they make the announcement that CF stands for Cure Found. I will become a wife, a mother, a grandmother.
My name is Nicole, and I have Cystic Fibrosis, but I will NOT let it have me.