My big secret was Cystic Fibrosis (CF). It is a genetic disorder, causing mucus build up in my lungs and pancreas, and a slew of other implications. I was born with it, it was not something I wanted, chose, or accepted. I would deny it at all costs.
CF was something I was ashamed of. I would either hide it or lie about it to keep me from feeling like I was different or not as capable. It was especially difficult for me to come to terms with my health condition when I was a teen, dancing competitively.
I wanted to be able to achieve the level of skill my classmates had, and I didn’t want anyone to deprive me or doubt me when given opportunities. I didn’t want to deal with CF, so I skipped it. I denied it. When I had to do my physiotherapy, I either didn’t do it, or I didn’t do it effectively. I developed a cough, that became an infection in my lungs, that if not treated, over time, would have meant I would not be able to breath.
It’s surprising I was able to go as long as I did without doing my physiotherapy properly. I wound up in the hospital for two weeks at two points in my life. Once when I was 12 (pictured above) and another when I was 15 (pictured below).
When I was in hospital at 15 years of age, I was taking three different medications, hooked up to an I.V. two weeks before my nationals dance competition that took place in NYC. I had prepared for it all year. I would only be released from the hospital, and able to continue my treatment from home so I could return to dance rehearsals, if my lung function was up over 80%. I had a 69%, and four days to prove I was healthy enough to go home. I got my lung function up to 90%, with the help of a physiotherapist, my mom, my doctors and doing physiotherapy on my lungs three times a day (yay!).
I had a PICC line inserted in my arm which allowed me to detach from my IV and practice my dancing. At that point in my life, dance was the only thing I could feel normal doing. No one saw me as the kid with CF, they just saw a dancer.
Now my two worlds were colliding. I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore when I showed up at dance with a PICC line in my arm. I had to face the truth: I was in desperate need of care, all because I hadn’t taken proper care of myself, and it was because I had Cystic Fibrosis, something I didn’t really want to face.