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Six Things You Don't Need to Apologize for with CF

Once upon a time, I apologized for being unreliable and someone once told me to stop apologizing. They said, “Your disease is unreliable, not you.” At the time, it was a minor gesture from a friend, but I remember their words hitting me in the chest and softening a place that harbored shame and guilt I had unknowingly felt about my CF.

They were right, after all. Deep down, I was a reliable and consistent person–who happened to have an unreliably crazy and chaotic disease. There’s a difference in apologizing for something I have control over, and feeling ashamed for a disease that I can’t control even with all my might.

Since then, I have attempted to change my perspective surrounding the things I once apologized for with CF (or at least I have tried). I am still a habitual apologizer, but I have gotten better. Here’s my six things you don’t need to apologize for while living with CF.

Putting your health first

Putting your health first is not always the easy thing to do, especially during those times when it doesn’t seem to stack up against all you have going. Especially in big transitions like high school, college, starting a new career, starting a family, etc. it’s often a sacrifice to put your health first because it’s not the typical “norm” at such a young age.

You may find yourself on a different path than your peers or refraining from a certain lifestyle that everyone else seems to be living. Although that can be a difficult choice to put your health first, it’s never something you need to apologize for if it’s the right thing for you.

Accepting help when sick

When it comes to my CF, often in the same breath you can hear me saying, “I’m sorry you need to help me but thanks for helping me.” What a crazy kind of incertitude is that? Most of the time people offer to help because they love you and it makes them feel like good people who are making a difference. I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves about that fact and leave it at that: you don’t need to apologize when accepting help.

Saying no to things that are unhealthy

Peer pressure with CF hits at a whole other level. Back in the day, I knew when people were asking me to try things and I declined, it wasn’t just the fact I didn’t want to but also that it would make me sick. You have to protect the things you work hard to take care of. For me that meant saying no to excessive alcohol, smoking, drugs, and environments that were excessively smokey or germy.

I used to feel bad or “uncool” for saying no, but now as an adult I see how important and brave that was to protect my lungs and health.

Your cough in public

This is a big one for me! Prior to Trikafta, my cough would cause so much anxiety in public. I was worried people would think I was disgusting, judge me, or be annoyed I was interrupting them. Here's the thing: I cannot control my cough. It’s a protective measure my body uses to keep me breathing and living.

Most of the time people give it very little thought and I was projecting my insecurities about my cough on them. Let it go! Enjoy doing things without letting your cough get in the way.

Getting mental health support

I am so thankful there’s been a big shift in the CF community in the last decade surrounding mental health. For a long time, very little about mental health was talked about in the clinic and in the community. Now, there’s a greater (more researched) understanding about how CF affects mental wellbeing and what options and support is available to help an individual cope. Your CF team should be asking about you mental health and helping you treat when there’s a problem, and you should never need to apologize for taking care of yourself, body and mind.

What are some things you felt the need to apologize for with CF? How did you overcome that? Share you experience with us below!

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