Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Featured Blogger: Colleen of

Colleen and her husband, Tim

Keep an eye on the CF Blogroll over the next few months! On the first and third Tuesday of every month, we will be featuring a different blogger from our blogroll. 

If you'd like to be a Featured Blogger, leave a comment or e-mail beingcindybaldwin AT gmail DOT com, and we'd love to feature you! Don't forget to include your e-mail address so that I can send you a list of interview questions. (Currently, I am posting the interviews in the order that I receive them, so don't be worried if it takes a few weeks for your interview to go up.)

Today's Featured Blogger is Colleen from "Live*Laugh*Love*Breathe." Colleen writes a wonderfully positive blog about her life and her cystic fibrosis. Determined to "live, laugh, and love" without letting CF get in the way, Colleen's posts are always encouraging and often very thought-provoking or funny as well! Don't forget to stop by her blog and pay her a visit today. (And be sure to check out her Kinder Quotes posts—they are hilarious!)

First, tell me a little bit about yourself! (How old are you, are you married, do you have any kids, do you work, etc.)

Hi, my name is Colleen, I’m 23 (almost 24) years old and I’m married to my awesome husband, Tim. We’ve been married for 1 ½ years and I got married when I was 22 and he was 24. I met Tim a month into my freshman year of college and we’ve been together ever since. I graduated college in four years with a degree in Elementary Education. I currently work as a full time teaching assistant in a Kindergarten classroom and absolutely love it. My goal is to have my own classroom one day, so I’m hoping to find a teaching job in the very near future. We do not have any kids…yet, but we’re planning on it. It would be nice to have a stable job/income and home before we had kids, but we’ll see what happens. We definitely want to try to have kids, but just not quite yet.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with CF? What led to your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with CF at birth. I was born with meconium ileus which is a blockage in my intestines so I had to go into surgery only a few hours after being born to correct it. This is a tell-tale sign of CF. After the surgery I had to stay in the NICU for a month until I was able to gain back the pound I lost from the surgery. Once I gained back to my birth weight, I was allowed to go home. Luckily, I haven’t been in the hospital since! My parents did not know that I was going to have CF until I was born. I was the second child born and my older brother, 4 at the time, did not have CF. I also have a younger brother who does not have CF either. They have not been tested to see if they are carriers, but I’m sure they will be when the time comes for them to start their own families. I also have distant cousins (third cousins, I believe) on my mom’s side of the family who have CF who are around my age who are doing very well.

One of my gene mutations is G551D (the other is unknown) –the gene mutation for Kalydeco! Because Tim and I are hoping to start a family in the near future, I have not started the drug, but I do plan on starting it after we have kids, especially if my lung function starts to decrease. Thankfully, my lung function is in the mid-to upper 80s right now.

What kind of effect has CF had on your life?

This is a tough question because life with CF is all I’ve ever known. I have no idea what it feels like not to do treatments everyday (except when I went through my rebellious teen years – as I think all CFers do), take enzymes every time I eat, have a daily cough, go to the CF clinic every three-four months – this is all so normal and routine for me. Like I mentioned above, I haven’t always been so complaint with all of my medications, vitamins and treatments. I was a very healthy child and rarely ever did any breathing treatments. I feel like my parents were kind of in denial about my CF because it was never addressed until it was time for clinic every few months. They never forced me to do treatments or anything and I think it was because I was doing so well without them that they didn’t think it was necessary. Then in middle school the Vest came out and that’s when things changed. My doctor wanted me to start it and it was a huge battle between my parents and me because as a teenager, realizing that this is something I was going to have to do every day to stay healthy was something I was not happy about. Throughout high school the battle continued because I felt healthy and I didn’t want to rely on these treatments to keep me healthy. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really took responsibility for myself, partly because I had to and mostly because I just grew up. Meeting Tim really helped me get my butt in gear and realize that I needed to take care of myself so that I could be around for him and our future family.

I try not to let CF impact the way I live my life. Yes, I have to plan my day around my treatment routine and make sure I bring enzymes with me everywhere I go, but I still do ‘normal people’ things: I had sleepovers in middle school and high school; I completed four years of college without any problems; I’ve maintained a healthy relationship and gotten married; I work a full time job. I am forced to face CF daily, but I try to maintain a positive attitude otherwise life would be miserable. There are so many people in this world less fortunate than me, that I sometimes feel like I have nothing to complain about: I’m happy and healthy. I have a fun job and loving husband.

Life is good.

When did you start blogging? What led you to start blogging?

I started my blog in January of 2011. I don’t really know what led me to start it exactly, but I think it’s just my willingness to accept my own CF. Over the past couple years I’ve really gotten involved in Great Strides and spreading awareness of CF, and more open about my own CF. I started looking online for other people with CF which is where I found a couple CF chat/community sites (CysticLife is awesome!). From there I started reading a couple CF blogs for a while. At one point my husband suggested that I start writing a blog, too. At first I had no idea what I would write about all the time – and what people would want to read about my life – but I thought about it for a while and decided that I’d give it a shot. After coming up with a blog title I liked (started off as: How I Live, Laugh and Love with CF, and has changed into *Live*Laugh*Love*Breathe*), I finally started. Now I love blogging and my favorite part is definitely how much I’ve been able to connect with so many people from the CF community.

What is your favorite post you've ever written?

I don’t know if I can pick just one favorite post, but here are a few that I really enjoy going back and reading:

-100 Days of marriage – I just love this post because I had an amazing wedding day and time has just flown since being married. It just brings me back to that wonderful day.

-Kinder Quotes – My kinders are hilarious! Kids say the weirdest/funniest things and they don’t even know it!

-Great Strides – I love these posts because they remind me how much love and support I have around me.

What are a few of YOUR favorite CF blogs? (They don't have to be on the blogroll.)

I Have CF, So What?! – This was the first CF blog I ever read and was definitely the inspiration for my own blog. Lauren is an excellent writer and is extremely positive person! I love reading her blogs and definitely recommend her to everyone.

Some other blogs I read include:

Inhaling Hope
My Life As A Livingston
Breathing Deeply, Laughing Loudly, and Living Fully
Illness Inspired Words

What would be your #1 piece of advice to others with CF?

Don’t pity yourself: Yes, sometimes this disease totally sucks and it’s completely okay to feel angry, upset, or sad about it – we all go through that at points in our lives. But then you need to move on and accept it. This is something about you that you cannot change, so adapt. No one likes a “Debby Downer”. 

Take care of yourself: Once you’re able to accept CF as a part of your life, I feel you can really take ownership over it. It took me until I was about 18 or 19 to fully accept it, so it might not come easily – especially if you’re someone who was diagnosed later in life. As soon as I told myself that this was a disease that I could do my best to keep under control by doing my treatments, taking my medications and finally (at 23) exercising, it’s amazing how much better I’ve been feeling about myself! You’re not going to get/feel better by sitting and doing nothing. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! This is the only body you get, so treat it well!

Have fun: Forget about CF sometimes! Don’t let it run your life. That doesn’t mean neglect your treatments, that just means that when your treatments are done, go out and enjoy yourself, live your life! Don’t think that just because you have CF you can’t do certain things – Live, Laugh, Love and Breathe!

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