Leaving the grey of England for a recent family holiday to sunnier climes allowed me to take a break from my cystic fibrosis (CF)* and diabetes… or did it?
In late June we went on holiday to Turkey. We had a great time – it was very hot with blue skies and a nice cooling breeze. It would be tempting to totally relax and take the foot of the pedal of my medical routine but even on holiday my CF comes along – lock, stock and barrel. After all, just because I’m taking time off, doesn’t mean that my sickness follows suit.
When I prepare for such a break, I spend less time packing clothes into a suitcase and longer getting my medication just right.
I need to bring a sizeable wash bag of drugs with me and this has to be exact with all the different variations (20+ types) and all my physiotherapy, nebuliser antibiotics and ice blocks.
For only a week, I painstakingly counted over 300 tablets into this bag. This always makes me feel dizzy. I have to get it right because once I’m at my holiday destination, there’s little chance of finding any replacement pills. I’ve been caught out before and learnt some harsh lessons. As my holiday progresses, I do find it strangely cathartic to see the bag continually diminish in size. It was also delightful not to have to rush my medication and be too prescriptive with my timings. I still needed to do them all, but while I was on holiday, my CF felt as relaxed as I was.
Another source of worry pre-flight was my nebuliser which enables me to breathe in an important antibiotic. I had been sent a replacement bit of equipment in the days prior and it was not working properly. This led to a frustrating scene in our kitchen where I simply bowed my head in silent angst and Katie said: “I have respect for you; I would have thrown it across the room by now!”
The off-shot of this nebuliser debacle meant that I had to bring two nebulisers with me to Turkey just in case the new one continued to miss-fire. Luckily, while over there it decided to behave itself – it must have also preferred the warmer weather!
At Heathrow airport, while waiting to fly out, it became apparent that my son Felix had been studying more of my daily medical routine than I had realised. During breakfast, Felix caught be taking my Creon enzyme pills and said aloud:”What are you putting in your mouth daddy?”
Later on in the holiday, he caught me again during one of our meals and exclaimed to Katie:” Daddy’s eating those funny sweeties again!”
Very warm weather is good and bad for me and my health. It’s good for my overall lungs and lung function and I cough a lot less than back in the damper conditions of home. The heat does however affect my diabetes increasing the risk of having a hypo.
I also have to be more careful than most people about being out in the sun as I have a high risk of getting sun burnt. This is because I’m fair skinned but also due to the change in my skin from previous years of taking the antibiotic Doxycycline. I wear high-factor sun cream and don’t spend too long out in the sun. This does tend to leave me whiter than other sun-seekers – I joke that when I’m swimming in the sea, I’m in danger of being harpooned!
Either way, even with great care not to over expose myself to the sun, after a few days in warmer temperatures, I am heavily prone to vicious heat rashes on my arms.
The swimming pool is the next potential concern not least for hygiene reasons but also depending on its level of chlorine. Too much of it causes me to cough uncontrollably.
A few years ago, I did the big daddy adventure with Felix when I took him to a large indoor water park which was heavily chlorinated. What followed was one of those mad days as a parent where each part of the activity is beset with problems…
As soon as I got into the water, I was coughing like a soldier after a WW1 gas attack. There was this monster water slide which Felix and I queued patiently to get to the top of. Once onto the slide, the pocket at the back of my shorts meant that we didn’t slide down in seconds with the water stream but rather we embarrassingly inched down over a few minutes. As a proud dad, I had to keep smiling to everyone in the queue while we were crawling down the slide and especially to Felix who thought we were going slow on purpose. At the same time, I was trying to suppress my omnipresent cough! Not one of my finest moments.
Luckily at this resort in Turkey, the pool was not overly full of chlorine and there was no water slide… phew!
I used swimming as a form of exercise during the week – it was too hot to go for a jog – both in the pool and in the sea where a swim out to the moored pontoon proved pretty strenuous when the waves were at their peak.
I also enjoyed some snorkelling in the sea just off the beach and realised that all my years of breathing meticulously into a nebuliser proved rather useful when breathing underwater with a snorkel!
During my stay, I visited an on-site Spa to partake in a skin peel treatment called ‘Hamam’- the Turkish delight of Spa treatments. I was asked in pigeon English prior to the treatment whether I had any medical issues. I lied and claimed to be ‘fighting-fit’ as people struggle to understand CF in my home country let alone when abroad in a foreign language.
The session involved me lying down on a heated marble slab for 15 minutes in sauna like conditions – quite an undertaking as I was already sweating profusely on arrival at the Spa. The masseuse than poured cold water all over me and preceded to wash me in soap suds and finished off with another dousing of cold water. I was then led (more like floated) to a cool room for a period of relaxation, and reflection that I had lost a layer of skin but was still smiling.
Other highlights on the holiday included seeing Felix do his first solo front crawl swimming and diving for his dive sticks; Katie battling with the Turkish residents every day at tea-time when they served up cake and a paddle around the bay in a kayak while furiously popping my dextrose energy.
Even though I was unable to take an actual holiday from my treatments, by being thorough with my preparation and medication, I was able to enjoy a proper break that wasn’t ruined by any unexpected health dilemmas. Indeed, my ‘into the blue’ holiday wasn’t affected by anything ‘out of the blue’!
Fellow hockey player and chum, Ben Sharpe, along with seven other “Mad Reservoir Dogs” have decided to enter the Adidas 24 hour Thunder Run on 28/29 July to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. The run is a continuous 24 hour relay run during which most if not all of us will run a marathon. Please click here and give as generously as you can…
I will keep you posted on my life affirming moments, trials and tribulations as and when they happen. Please keep reading and sharing my blog and sign up if you have not already done so.
Yours cup half full.
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 8,500 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations.
For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website