Saturday, November 5, 2011

You're Capable of More Than You Think

Guest Post by Jaime C.

My name is Jaime, I’m 26 years old, and on Monday, October 24th I ran a mile for the first time in my life. I mean EVER. Then, Tuesday I went and ran two. I know, I’m shocked also!

Those two nights were a triumph for me after five months of working out with a trainer and starting to run. I was a pretty active kid growing up, but after I graduated from high school and started college I just didn’t want to exercise any more--it got in the way of my social schedule and I didn’t want the reminder that my lungs were not cooperating with the plans I had. I was simply being lazy. This decision was quite possibly one of the worst I’ve made in my life.

Five months ago I moved to a new city with friends from college and transfered to a new office with my job. Deciding to move was a long and anxiety-filled process and taking care of myself kind of fell by the way-side. On top of that, the weekend of the actual move I caught a cold, which would. just. not. go. away. Prior to moving I had belonged to a gym but half-heartedly went a couple times a week and walked on the treadmill convinced I couldn’t really handle more than that because it was hard. My parents and new roommates (a couple of close friends from college) encouraged me to keep going to the gym and work with a trainer and really get serious about trying to get my lung function back up. I wasn’t really convinced that it would make much of a difference but decided to give it a try.

About a month into my “new” life I ended up having to do IVs which, as so many of y’all know, just takes it out of you! But one thing I did differently this time--kept working out (with a lot of prodding from my roommates). I took the full three weeks of IVs off of work and during that time got lots of rest, lots of awesome homemade meals (thanks to my church) and lots of time at the gym. After IVs my PFTs were back up to my baseline that I’ve had for the last few years, and fresh off that clean-out I hit the gym hard. The trainer I had been working out with had been doing his CF research and informed me that I was going to become a runner. I laughed in his face. And then he made me go run on the treadmill. And I did it. Very slowly at first and for very short distances, but I did it. It was really hard and I was pretty miserable for a long time. I think that much of the battle was mental for me--believing that what I was doing was, in fact, going to make a difference in my ability to breath, live longer, live better. And believing that I could actually do it.

One thing that my trainer said to me was that he thinks I am capable of more than I think I am. I was totally lame and started crying in the gym. Really cool. But it got me thinking, and I realized that there are a lot of things that I’ve decided I can’t do because of CF. I won’t go into that laundry list but the majority of it is ridiculous because I’ve done things in my life that were hard and out there and impulsive and crazy like moving to a foreign country for 10 months with a weeks notice. So why was taking care of my body and working hard, I mean really hard, to help myself so difficult? Why was I able to do things in other “areas” of my life that required a leap of faith with the absolute possibility of failure but not when it came to putting in the work to help extend my own life? I think it’s because I didn’t want to put in the work, experience the pain, deal with the emotions and the struggles and still get sick or have it make no difference. That feels so defeating and leaves me with a distinct feeling of helplessness that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

I don’t have a good answer to my own questions or know of the best way to handle the possibility of working really really hard at something and having it go badly or not have miraculous results. But what I do know is that when I went to clinic last Thursday my PFTs were, and I quote my doctor: “the highest they’ve been in 5 years.” WHAT?! All I could do was start laughing. And almost fall off the table. I’m just not graceful. It’s ok, I’ve embraced it. But I digress. The moment after I finished my PFTs I knew they looked good, but having my doc go through my chart and really look at how high and low they’ve been in the last few years confirmed that my hard work was indeed paying off. And all of my miserable moments leading up to being able to run two whole miles were suddenly totally worth it!

Now I know that there will be times when I’ve been working hard and I might not see improvement. We all know the unpredictable nature of CF and that even when doing everything right things can still get worse; and yes that’s frustrating. I can’t in all honesty say that when I experience one of those times in the future, where, despite hard work I still get worse that I’ll have a good attitude about it. However, right now, on this side of that situation, I want to cultivate a lifestyle and disposition that reflect what I’ve learned from these last five months: when it comes to CF I am absolutely capable of more than I ever thought; that working hard through pain and burning lungs and muscles is worth it to take back my life and not feeling like CF has already claimed victory. I CAN and I WILL fight this.

Bio: I'm Jaime C. and I'm 26 years old from NC. I was diagnosed at 3 months old at Duke but have been seen at UNC by an amazing group of doctors since I was four. I work full time at a bank and have been doing that for the last two and a half years. Prior to that, I was a nanny in Italy, and before that a college student! I love my family, nail polish, exploring my city, finding new fun places to eat, cooking, the beach, baseball, fashion, traveling the world, learning about and knowing God more, and having a good beer with friends. I hope this little slice of my life helps others realize that they are stronger and capable of more than they think especially in regards to exercise.

Note from Ronnie: I can't thank Jaime enough for sharing her story. It rings so true to many of us in the CF community doesn't it? I know that when I started running, all I could do was picture failing. That fact the I decided to run was a victory in itself, but when I actually "hit the ground running" it became a battle of believing in myself. I think Jaime shows us that through some hard work, preserving and belief in oneself, anything is possible!! Thank you SO MUCH cyster!!