On the 16th May, it will be seven years since our family was completed. On the 12th June, it will be seven years since our family member’s lives were irreversibly changed by two little letters.
The last seven years has had its up’s and down’s. Cameron is a vivacious little boy who lives his life to the fullest. He doesn’t walk, he runs through life (literally and figuratively!) If there is a joke to be found…Cam will find it! His diagnosis has not dragged him down in the slightest.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been hard times.
In the last seven years, Cam has been admitted in to hospital four times. There was one when he was diagnosed, sick with double pneumonia and underweight due to malabsorption.
The second time was when he was two years old. A bronchoscopy at annual review that year showed he was growing the dreaded super-bug Pseudomonas in his lungs, which is an instant minimum two-week admission into hospital for intravenous antibiotics.
The third time was unrelated to his cystic fibrosis. He had severe tonsillitis and his throat closed over. It was a scary 24 hours! We were more worried about that than anything he had gone through with his CF by that point.
The fourth time, he was five years old, and another routine bronchoscopy showed Pseudomonas again, which resulted in a gruelling two weeks in hospital and another week of treatment at home. We were all exhausted by the end, and it was a rather traumatic experience for Cam which resulted in a slight fear of needles.
Over the years, he has also had a staph infection twice. The first time, we discovered he was allergic to one of the antibiotics they used to treat it.
He currently has about 30-35 tablets a day to keep him healthy. This includes Creon tablets (which help him digest his food), salt tablets (as salt loss is massive with CF-ers), a multivitamin, Vitamin D tablets (to ward off osteoporosis, which is high risk in CF-ers) and antibiotics to prevent infections. This doesn’t include when he has a moist cough, where we treat him with two weeks of nebulizer antibiotics at home. If there is no improvement after that time, it requires a hospital admission for IV drugs.
He has progressed from percussion physiotherapy to resistance breathing techniques using a PEP mask and “huffing” through a wide pipe to help move any mucous around in his lungs. He is now in charge of his own physiotherapy (of course, under close watch by us, as he is well-known for trying to worm his way out of it!)
His high fat, high salt diet is now easily maintained. It was a massive learning curve when he started solids, but now we just add the “goodies” to meals once separated from the rest of the family’s meal, or add a few extra high-calorie snacks to his lunch box, and extra helpings whenever he requests. Cam is a little on the shorter side, but in terms or weight and build…he is actually a little Buddha for a CF kid , who are generally notoriously lanky/skinny.
He is pretty good about dealing with his condition. About two years ago, he had a little breakdown. He suddenly didn’t want to do his physio. He didn’t want to have his medication. He didn’t want needles. He didn’t want to see doctors. He didn’t want to have cystic fibrosis anymore. There was a bit of focus on him at school as he was in pre-primary, and the other kids were taking notice that he was a bit different. In the past, his outlook was “I am different, and that makes me AWESOME!”…suddenly, it was “I’m different, and I don’t know if I like it anymore…”
We decided to just pull back a bit and allow him to work through it on his own. We didn’t push him in to anything he didn’t want to do (with the exception of physio and medication…sorry buddy…no escaping that!) We let him talk things out. I spoke to his teacher, and they tried to make things as discreet as possible at school (ie. having medication away from the rest of class)
I have to admit, I was a bit surprised at how young he was when his “breakdown” came. I am sure that many more are expected over the coming years, but I’m sure we can work through it.
We don’t stop Cam from doing anything. We want him to experience everything he can. He recently started sword fighting classes, which he loves considering he loves pirates and ninjas! He has a great circle of friends who understand his condition, but don’t see him as his condition. He plays pranks on his family, much to our chagrin sometimes. He also gives the best cuddles (but not in front of anyone….of course!)
Life certainly isn’t easy when you live with cystic fibrosis, but it certainly isn’t as bad as what I envisioned it would be when he was first diagnosed. I’m not making light of the condition….CF sucks…it truly, truly sucks. But we have been lucky with our experience so far….a lot of other families haven’t.
May is CF Awareness Month. 65 Roses Day is on the 27th May this year. All I ask is that you take a moment to familiarize yourself with the condition. I’m not going to push for donations (though it would be awesome if you could) but the whole focus is awareness.
I just hope that sharing our experiences, it sheds a little light.