Saturday, April 30, 2011

Transitioning to Middle Adulthood

Guest post by Leah Sands

Erik Erikson, social scientist, defined "middle age" as the period between ages 40-65, although the US census has often linked it to the ages of 35-50. Therefore, I feel that I am now at the point where I'm transitioning from early adulthood into middle adulthood. My thoughts on this have been hovering in my head as I realize what this means.

As a child and teenager, I remember looking at adults with gray hair as inferior to my world. They always exuded some kind of confidence as they went about their business. Most of them had horrible fashion sense in my opinion. And why should they be so happy and carefree? After all, they were "old".

After recently celebrating my entrance into my 30's, I began to contemplate a lot of realities about my life. It basically began when I injured my back a few weeks prior. This caused me some major pain issues and an inability to be very active. It made me question why I was having this type of back problem because "I'm too young" to be having these issues already.

In addition, I've even become much more aware of educational and media commentary on the changes that start to occur after you reach age 30 - as if there's some automatic switch that changes you from young and thriving to old and degenerating.

"Young and thriving" - not always the case with people with CF. I was fortunate enough to have been diagnosed when I was born due to meconium ileius; although, I still had difficulties gaining weight and maintaining it. My childhood days were filled with swingsets, coloring, forts, and sleepovers. My daily routine also included enzymes, antibiotics, vitamins, inhaled medications, and chest therapy, which was usually accompanied by exciting games of 'I Spy'.

But as I got older, I came to realize that all of this extra daily routine stuff was actually really a desperate effort to keep me alive and functioning normally. I began reading books from the library, secretly, about CF - only to come to realize my true fate. The encyclopedia told me I'd be dead by age 18. Several non-fiction books told gruesome truths of the tortures of CF. I'd spend nights in my room recording my cough so I could replay it to myself to see how bad it really sounded to others. My family would casually redirect me or suggest alternate options when discussing my future and a family of my own. All of this collectively made me understand that I would never see myself as an old person. No sense in planning things out that far. Plus, who wants to be old anyways.

But hey, I'm still alive. I'm 30 and still surviving. Not only am I surviving, but I'm thriving....And how do I know this?.....I'm now a whopping 192 pounds! Yep, thriving all right! It is true what they say - your metabolism slows as you age. Not only that, but the pregnancy weight you gain also sticks with you for life. And yes, I've even been pregnant - something I didn't think was ever possible. Now I see my two boys running around our back yard and I can only be grateful for all the wonderful things in my life. Not only have I achieved my personal and family goals, but also my educational and career goals. I finished my graduate degree last year and landed my dream job on my 30th birthday. So thriving is an understatement to say the least - I'm living a dream!

Amongst all of these achievements, that I originally thought were impossible, I have maintained my health. I feel guilty and sad when a friend with CF has a difficult time or passes away. Why isn't this me? So many people aren't able to live their dreams and accomplish their goals, so what makes me so special? Everyone deserves a chance.

So I look in the mirror and evaluate my life. I can almost look into my soul and see all of the feelings I have inside. I can look into my eyes and relive the memories that have made me who I am today. I can look into my hair and realize that I'm starting to get grays --- WHAT?!?!?!?!

I never, in a million years, would have thought I'd see this day. Should I pluck them out? Color them? This brings awareness to the fact that I'm not so young anymore and I want to look young. But the other part of me wants to embrace this change. I want to cherish the fact that I'm old enough to get them. I've made it to a point where so many others have not, a point where I hadn't planned for.

I've made it to being....old.

Leah's Bio: I am a 30-year-old cyster, married to my life partner, and we have two beautiful boys ages 4 and 2. I work as an application analyst for medical practices, have an MBA, and also hold a license as a registered nurse. I love playing organized sports, such as soccer and softball. I love spending time outside with my boys teaching them how to play sports and jumping on the trampoline. I also enjoy photography, scrapbooking, and anything crafty really. I am very fortunate that my health has remained stable over the years and my mutations are double DF508.

Note from Ronnie: I can't thank Leah enough for reaching out to me and contributing this blog. We are such a "large" small community and can really learn a lot from each other's story. It's always great to hear stories of cysters my age who are not only living with CF, but THRIVING with CF. Growing up in my generation, we were always left to wonder just what age we would make it to. Now, because of all of the wonderful advances in CF care, we are seeing the next generation carry less of that burden!