Earlier this week, Olivia Newton-John made news headlines for saying that she was grateful to have fought breast cancer. That statement, understandably, shocked many people. Cancer is a horrible, evil thing that effects every single person in some way – whether it’s losing someone, supporting someone who has lost someone or battling it themselves. For someone to say they were grateful for it would have disgusted some people. In the interview with the Radio Times magazine she said, “I am grateful for the experience because without it I would not have done many of the things I have done in my life.” But I know what she means. Having an disease or fighting through an illness can inspire you to live in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.
Living with Cystic Fibrosis is a constant battle. Every day is a fight with my body, a fight to stop it deteriorating, a fight to keep it working, a fight to keep its already below-average function somewhat stable. Please note that I am in no way comparing it to Cancer, but the reaction to both is the same. You fight it.
I’ve been fighting against it for over 21 years. It’s a continuous, endless fight, with no days off and no end in sight. But, I can truly say that I am thankful for it. Of course, I don’t feel this way 24/7. Times get tough and I get overwhelmed and in those moments I wish with my whole (coughing) being that I didn’t have to fight this fight.
But if I take a step back and look at my life, my personality and my mental attitude, I can see that it’s had such an impact on who I am today. It’s the thing that’s played the biggest role in my life and how I’ve grown up. There are so many negatives, (including ill health, abscence from school, feeling overwhelmed, constant chest infections, extra responsibilities, malnourishment in my teens, living a completely different life from my friends etc.) but these can be balanced out with the positives. Because of Cystic Fibrosis I am now brave. I’m strong. I’m understanding and sympathetic to others in similar poor-health situations. I’m an advocate (albeit a small one) for a disease that many people don’t know about. I’m an achiever and a university graduate, despite it. I’m stubborn (in a good and bad way). I’m persistent. I have dreams and goals I will achieve because I can handle the fight. I’m responsible and organised. Without the responsibility and constant presence of this illness, I could have ended up being someone completely different.
And that’s why I’m thankful for it. It’s made me me. Using the words of Olivia Newton-John, I wouldn’t have done some the things that I’ve done in my life if I didn’t have CF. It breaks me down but it builds me up too. And I’m thankful for that.