Guest blog by Ashley Coleman
If you asked me who I am and what I am about, you probably wouldn’t ever hear me being defined by my Cystic Fibrosis. First and foremost, I am a devoted follower of Christ. My passion is to help people find truth. The truth sets us free. Where does freedom come from? Jesus Christ. I’m defined by few things outside of Him, but Ronnie has asked me to write about my Cystic Fibrosis journey, and so I will.
Stay with me as I make this long, long journey into a few paragraphs. At the end of February 2012, I noticed I was getting sick. I had just finished a long day at work and had a really lame workout because I was so fatigued. I bought some groceries because I knew I would need a few days of rest. Little did I know, I wouldn’t be able to carry those groceries in my house. I was so out of breath, I had to call my mom to come unload my groceries. This was a Sunday. She convinced me if I was still unable to make it up the stairs without getting out of breathe that we would visit our local ER (not my CF Clinic that is 90 minutes away). Needless to say, I didn’t improve and I found myself staying in the local hospital for a night without them knowing what to do with me. I was sent home with some oral antibiotics and not even given a PFT.
A few days later, I found myself walking the halls of my CF Clinic, Tulane, to my doctor’s office unable to even carry my purse. Once again, Mom to the rescue and after much convincing my doctor admitted me. I stayed 3 nights and was released just in time for my 25th birthday. 20 pounds lighter, lung function at 57%, first PICC line, first CF hospitalization, first real CF exacerbation; I was scared.
57% was a number I had never seen. Not me, I am healthy. Not me, I don’t really have CF. It was time to wake up and get out of this cozy place of denial and take control of my health and well being. For two weeks, I did every single IV and breathing treatment and even walked some. There was no getting past this; it was now or never. Wake up and deal with my CF or just lay here and die, literally. It was life or death for me. I did improve to 78% but that wasn’t good enough for me.
I was born a fighter. Not literally, but figuratively. I was not going down like this.
As soon as I got my PICC line out, I was cleared for vigorous exercise again and could get super sweaty. I grabbed my Insanity DVDs and sometimes did two workouts a day, walked my dog, did every single treatment, and went to the gym. I packed on some weight, a little more fat than I wanted, but over the past 18 months my body composition has changed. I have packed on solid muscle and improved my lung function to 95%. I went from 86% to 95% in just three months. At 86% my doctor’s words were “don’t expect too much improvement from here” so just imagine his reaction when he saw 95%!
My biggest and only change is exercise. I workout 30-120 minutes per day, 6 days a week. Every day I go to the gym to workout a different muscle group. I would recommend beginners to start with a 3 day a week full-body routine, but I have been weight lifting for about 3 years now. I also do some sort of cardio. Lately, it’s been Insanity videos, swimming, and running. Now that it’s getting cooler out, I am going to be cycling more. I also walk my dog 1-2 miles a day and I look forward to that increasing as well. My diet consists of anti-inflammatory foods 5-7 days a week.
- Add things before you start taking away. Add the anti-inflammatory foods before taking your daily Doritos away. Eventually, you will begin to relate how you feel to what you are putting in your body. FOOD is FUEL. Add a little exercise at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm and burn yourself out.
- Do what you can with where you are and what you have. What does this mean? If you can walk to the mailbox and back 5 times do it, then do it again the next day and do it 6 times. If you can run a mile, do it. If you cannot afford a gym membership, do your best to fit that in your budget. Join a class at the gym. The YMCA turns no one away for being unable to pay.
- Don’t do this alone. Get friends involved. Ask for accountability, whether that be friends in person or friends on CF forums. Make a commitment and do it. If you can afford it, hire a personal trainer 2-4 times a week. I am beginning online training if you are interested, but I’m not here to plug myself. A financial investment is sometimes all you need for lasting motivation.
- Mentally prepare yourself. Tell yourself every single day that you can and you are doing this. Tell yourself what a good job you are doing and truly believe it.
- Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but in the end produces a harvest of righteousness”. I posted this scripture everywhere in my house.
- Be kind to yourself. You will not change over night. You aren’t where you want to be, but you are on your way. Remind yourself every day of this. Love yourself well enough to take care of yourself.
- Find a balance. Be diligent with your treatments, but also don’t beat yourself up if you miss one. It’s okay. Find that healthy balance.
Please, let me know what I can do to help. My goal is to see us as a CF community (and human race as a whole), take charge of our individual health – mind, body, and spirit. We can do this. You can do this! Believe me. Believe in you.