Do We ‘Fight’ Chronic Illnesses, or ‘Live’ With Them?

Are we fighting against cystic fibrosis, or merely living with a medical condition? I’ve thought about that question a lot over the past few days.

There’s no right or wrong answer.

The prevailing notion is to militarize someone’s experience with chronic illness. We’re brave in the face of terminal illness, we approach the unknown with courage, and we fight to stay alive.

Others think they’re living within a horrendous medical condition, brought upon by millions of years of cell biology. The condition is a fact of life, reinforced through countless cases all over the world.

I identify with the former. I use my cystic fibrosis as a motivator, because I think my experience with the illness has shaped my personality in countless different ways. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m some amazingly brave or courageous person, hell I still cower in fear at the sight of a shot or blood draw, but I certainly choose to approach medical complications as challenges to be overcome.

Applying the “fight” metaphor to my personal struggle with CF describes both purpose and direction. Winning is the ultimate goal, and I think striving for victory is what allows me to wake up each morning and start the monotonous routine all over again.

The simple fact is I do fight against my cystic fibrosis. I fight a chronic bacterial infection that is slowly taking over my lungs. Instead of using guns, bombs or fists, I use antibiotics. It’s an endless struggle that doesn’t pause when I go to sleep. My body continues to fight when I find rest, and then when I wake up, I actively join the fight.

It’s a peculiar fight to wage. Cystic fibrosis holds a 100% success rate over those of us who live with it. Applying those odds to any other struggle, bet, fight or anything else would likely serve as a deterrence, but when personal survival is on the line, quitting is not an option.

Not long ago, I spoke about taking pride in maintaining complete compliance to my medication regimen. I took some flak for it, whatever, but really I was talking about how I choose to wage my personal fight against cystic fibrosis. It’s complex and it’s hard, but it is my life. The only way I get to pursue the things I want to do is if I do whatever it takes to stay healthy. My CF has a few weaknesses, and I exploit them however I can. One way to do that is to nail down a routine and stick to it without exception, so that’s exactly what I do. It’s tiring, it’s frustrating and, at times, it can seem like a lost cause, but I use my fight against cystic fibrosis as the ultimate motivator, and there isn’t a single thing that could ever change my mind.