Imagine meeting someone for the first time and you both knew each other inside out? Well, that’s what happened when I recently met a cystic fibrosis (CF)* veteran from America…
I met Jerry Cahill in a London hotel to record a podcast for the global community, on behalf of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, about my experiences of being a dad with CF. Jerry is a late 50’s CF legend from New York State. He has had a successful business career, sporting life in track and field (particularly the pole vault) and a will to live, which was helped by a double lung transplant a few years back which he took amazingly in his stride.
His mantra ‘You Cannot Fail’ has always influenced the way Jerry lives his life and it has become his personal mission to spread that message to as many people as possible. He firmly believes that you should never give up hope and always, always strive to be the hero of your own story.
Due to the risk of cross-infection we were mindful to keep a distance from each other and not shake hands. But even though our personal contact was limited, it was obvious that something interesting was taking place over the 90 minutes we spent together…
Meeting my match
Meeting an older CFer like Jerry was like looking into the mirror but viewing me in a different guise. Although we didn’t look the same and we spoke in different accents, we were clearly cut from the same cloth with our DNA – not just that we had CF and related diabetes – something more holistic and ground-breaking.
Just like me, he believes that everyone should be proud of his/her achievements, big and small, and should find the magic in just being alive for another day.
Just like my family, Jerry’s family took everything day-by-day and never let themselves over-focus on the illness or the possible complications that could arise with CF at any time.
We are both on an even par of positivity, focusing on living, breathing and making a difference to our lives and the lives of others. In a symbiotic way, we intuitively understand that CF is an integral part of us but it does not define us and it does not overly hinder the way we wish to live our lives.
With almost no need to verbally confirm it, there was this immediate bond and kinship. We just got each other; having gone through many of the same daily health battles, popped the same pills, nebulised the same drugs, suffered the IV treatments, injected the same insulin, coughed in harmony thousands of miles apart but equally fought back relentlessly time and again through our medical adherence, sport and unshakeable mental fortitude.
Looking through Jerry’s book of inspirational quotes and his survival insights, I was left in awe by a photo of him running the ‘Run to Breathe’ 10K in New York’s Central Park while on oxygen pre-transplant. If ever there was a photo that encapsulated ‘triumph of the spirit’ and demonstrates what it takes to defy a life-limiting illness like CF, this was it.
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 (on the right hand side tab) if you have not already done so.
Yours cup half full.
Tim Wotton (CF author)
For more information on Jerry Cahill, visit his website.
In other news
My CF memoir is now available as an Audio Book with a voiceover by JP Nicholas. Check it out here.
My memoir is a finalist for the UK People’s Book Prize! Please help me to win by adding a comment via this link. I find out if I’m the eventual winner early by May 2015!
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 10,000 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.