Nine things I’d love to tell my 20-something self

Tim at 20

Tim, Katie and Felix 2017

What life lessons would you share with your younger self? Here, I tell my 20-something self some important things about life and coping with the chronic illness cystic fibrosis (CF)*…

Over 46 years, I have learnt so many physical and mental lessons – what works (and doesn’t need fixing), what made me feel shockingly unwell (and not to be repeated) and how best to adapt to situations to become the best version of myself.

1. Give your lungs as hard a time as they give you!
Your physio’s will have been going on at you about this forever but it took me years to see for myself that it really is important for keeping your lungs tuned. Make exercise one of your treatments. I’d tell myself that a large part of your longevity in the battle to defy CF will be credited to the sports you will choose to take part in throughout your life, whether it be hockey, football, basketball, running or weight training in the gym.

Activity will keep you going; feeling like you’re conducting a relatively normal life and boost your self-esteem. It will breathe life into your lungs.

2. Be spontaneous, but…
Throughout your life you’ll realise it’s important to 100% respect your illness, know your limitations and avoid slipping on the ‘CF banana skin’ of trying to dismiss it and not taking it seriously enough. Though sometimes it may be difficult, you’ll laugh a lot and be sociable with your peers, without neglecting your treatments.

3. It might not be business as usual, but you can earn a living…
At your age, CF seemed like a barrier to my career, but I want you to know that the resilience shown by surviving CF is an asset for you in the workplace. That resilience is life changing and positively wipes out the less important things you’ll observe others wasting valuable time on.

You’ll realise that you have a richer perspective on the work issues that are worth worrying about due to your ‘CF bigger picture’. You’ll be surprised to find yourself considered a valued employee and employers buying into your survival and being flexible about your healthcare needs. As CF is not well understood, you’ll have to coach your managers about the condition but once they value your work, they’ll be pretty flexible with your hospital visits and IV courses.

4. You don’t want to be with someone that doesn’t want to be with you…
Telling close friends or a partner about CF can be difficult, but you’ll get good at working out who the people who don’t ‘get’ CF are, and learn to spot people who can deal with the sights and sounds of the condition. It won’t always be easy, but I want you to know you’ll find friendships and a love that will endure.

5. You will see all your tomorrows in your child’s eyes…

I can still see myself as a young man chatting with mum on the pier in Weston-Super-Mare, telling her that I didn’t think I’d have my own children. I’d tell him not to give up – the emotional rollercoaster of IVF will bring a miracle child into your life and starting a family will give you the extra motivation you need to stay as healthy as possible.

6. Let it all out…

I’d share the knowledge that cystic fibrosis can be so isolating and lonely that you’ll need to open up in order to reduce the burden of carrying this condition.

Talking with friends on the phone or opening up via a diary or blog is cathartic and stops the build-up of harmful supressed emotions. Get your feelings down on paper, even if you’re the only one who will see it. Perhaps write pro’s and con’s about your life – you’ll be surprised how many positives there are!

7. Please don’t be so hard on yourself about taking your medications…
It took me time to realise, so I’d tell myself that staying fit and healthy doesn’t rely on a begrudging compliance to taking medication, it needs something more – an absolute commitment to your wellbeing. Actually ‘wanting’, rather than ‘having’, to be healthy will feel empowering.

I’d tell myself “Do your medication even when no one is watching. Experiment with different apps, reminders and routines to see what’s best for you.” It is important to develop habits with taking medicines as quickly as possible so it’s ingrained. Don’t wait for friends and family to nag you. In the long run, it’s better to own it; my mantra is “I’m only as healthy as my last treatment”.

8. The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your life.
After a lifetime battling a relentless illness, you’ll learn to fight it by being just as relentless back. Yes, you’ll be shaken every day in many ways, but you will not be stirred!

I’d reassure my 20-something self that he will be his own CF champion, resetting mentally at the start of every day by telling himself what he needs to achieve, despite cystic fibrosis and related diabetes.

9. It’s all worth it!
Remember to reward yourself and celebrate your determination and bravery to endure every day what is not yet cured. As you get older you’ll start to feel very driven and want to leave a lasting legacy for your family and friends to remember you by like a book. Surviving CF for so long makes every day feel special.

Most importantly, because of the attitude and resilience you show to defy your physical and mental challenges, life will offer you the opportunity to make a difference for yourself and others. Make every moment count.

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 (author of Award-Winning CF Memoir ‘How have I cheated death?’)

* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 10,500 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.


About Tim Wotton

I live with my lovely wife (Katie) and spirited ten-year old son (Felix) in Morden, Surrey; working full-time as an internal communications specialist in the Oil & Gas sector. I have played sport, particularly hockey, tennis all my life and now regularly go to the gym. Cystic fibrosis has been a huge factor in my life, but not one that overshadows it. I have always had great support from my loving family - parents Margaret and Douglas (RIP), elder brother Chris and my twin brother Jez. I have many rich life insights based on knowing I have a reduced life expectancy and battling against the odds for over 44 years. My eyes and heart have been opened by my health struggle. I feel empowered to share my life lessons to help anyone with health and life issues to overcome. My passions include Paul Smith clothes, dress shirts (believing that it's enlightening to dress like it's your last day on earth), Alfa Romeo cars, spicey food, Harlequins and England rugby, Southampton FC, Wimbledon village and common, Dorset, seascapes, sunsets and military history. I am available for public speaking on this subject matter and can be contacted via timwottonAThotmailDOTcom. I have written a book 'How have I cheated death?' based on my euphoric countdown year to 40 which was published in 2014 and won the 2015 'Best Achievement' Award at the UK People's Book Prize. It is available via e-book, audiobook and paperback at Amazon and to order from UK bookstores. Go to the relevant sites below or in the UK go to a WH SMITH, Waterstones or Foyles bookstore and give them my name, book title and this ISBN number (9781849637190). It’s also available via GARDNER’S, BERTRAM’S, AUSTINMACAULEY.COM, BLACKWELL’S, PLAY.COM, AMAZON.CO.UK AND AMAZON.COM
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17 Responses to Nine things I’d love to tell my 20-something self

  1. Hasan says:


    Being a father of a 2 year old CF princess, your blog keeps my spirits high for her future. I would really like to know more about your memories of your childhood and your great parents. I sometimes feel that I am being overly protecting my daughter, putting her in a shell.

    Love and prayers from Texas.

  2. Jamie Chrispin says:

    Hey Tim always love reading your posts. Thinking of you mate and hope you’re doing well. Catch up soon hopefully Yours glass half full too MG

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. margaretwotton says:

    Hi Tim, life wasn’t all a bed of roses when you were a teenager, growing your antlers and finding your feet! But I never let you give up, even for a day but how I worried when you started Uni! However you’ve come through the younger turbulent years and with your family, your treatments are even more important to appreciate the love you have around you. Much love Mum xxx

  4. Margaret Wotton says:

    Considerable deep thinking there, not sure if that was sparked off by your wretched DLA assessment today???
    I’ve posted a reply.
    lol MUm xxx

  5. Denise Exon says:

    Dear Tim

    Your attitude to life is an inspiration to us all. Love Dennis and Mike Xxxx

    Sent from my iPad


  6. Tim, thanks. You reminded me how important it is to be grateful- pros/cons idea is great. And, I love your 20s pic.By coincidence,today I was cleaning up my emails from London time in LD and I came across your comms work. Take care and keep going,

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Steli, so lovely to hear from you and thanks for your kind words and memories. I cherish that time working with you and the HR gang.
      All the very best

  7. lesley says:

    Thankyou Tim.

  8. Victoria Jones says:

    What a fabulous post…. just loved reading this… as a mum of a nine year old with cf who hates phsyio currently it is great to read such brilliant advice… thank you for taking the time to write this …. xx

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Victoria,
      Lovely to hear from you and I appreciate how much your 9 year old will struggle with physio. In 24 hours, your child probably has to give 1-2 hours to CF and therefore has 22 hours for themselves – that way they are winning and not CF! It might be worth you reading my memoir which you can purchase on Amazon and feel free to reach out to me on for any advice.

      Best wishes

  9. annologist says:

    I remember you at 20 like it was yesterday – have we really known each other that long? – and the boy I knew wasn’t really the type to take advice 😂. Too busy playing everyone off the hockey pitch, drinking everyone under the table and dancing everyone out of the club to sit still long enough to listen. Props to you, you gorgeous cheeky thing, for smiling and laughing your way through it, for keeping most of us in the dark, for putting smiles on our faces and showing us all that life is for living. Don’t stop.

    • Tim Wotton says:

      My dearest Ann, thanks for your kind words and yes, we have known each other that long! You may be right about be not listening to advice but back in 1990, there wasn’t anyone over 30 with CF who could have given me any advice as life expectancy was so reduced… now, I am proud that there are many of us getting over 30 and way beyond with careers, families and full lives where we can make a difference, rather than merely exist. I won’t ever stop…
      LOL xx

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