1. CF has taught me to appreciate life. So many people go through life unappreciative of the life they've been given. So many of us compare our lives to the lives of others and feel bad for ourselves, wishing we had "what they have." I'm guilty of it. CF offers a constant reminder to appreciate what I have been blessed with... a fantastic life, with a wonderful wife and two amazing boys!! It makes me thankful for every day and every breath.
2. It has made my marriage and all my relationships stronger. Challenges and troubling times make relationships stronger. My relationship with my wife is the strongest I have on this earth. Mostly because our relationship and marriage has been rooted in God since the beginning. The trials we have gone through due to my CF have only strengthened it further. The uncertainties with my health, with having children, financial burdens brought on by CF, and many more have caused our marriage to grow stronger. When we got married I was in very good health with good PFT's. Since we've been married, CF has upped it's game. I've seen some scary dips in my PFT's and had an emergent bowel obstruction surgery. Those trials brought on feelings of worry and fear. Wondering what the future would hold and bringing the all to real fear that I will someday lose the fight to the forefronts of our minds. The trials cause us to lean on each other for strength and bring us closer.
CF will continually test the strength of a relationship. Thankfully, God put an amazing woman in my life who chose to marry me in spite of CF and all it encompasses. She amazes me in so many ways. Our love and marriage grows stronger all the time.
3. I appreciate my wife and children that much more. I can't help but feel that CF causes me to love and care for them so much more than the "average" guy. I'm not by any means saying men don't love and adore their wives and children. It's hard to explain, but other CFers and CF spouses will know what I'm talking about. I want to cherish every waking moment I have with my wife and kids. I want to make as many memories as possible. I don't want to let anything distract me or take away from time I could be spending with them.
I have hopes that I'll see my boys graduate high school and get married. I'm an optimistic realist. I know that may not happen. I don't want to let one moment slip by and not cherish them. After all, Monica chose to marry me. She deserves the best life I can give her and all the love and affection I have. The boys deserve that as well. Even more so since they didn't have a say in me being their father. :) I don't want a day to go by that they don't hear me say "I love you" and show it through my actions.
4. I can eat like an elephant. It's a blessing and a curse. For a majority of us CFers it's really hard to gain weight. This can be very aggravating. Especially when you're sick and you're body is burning through calories and it's next to impossible to keep up. However, we can eat... and eat a lot! I know a lot of people struggle with their weight and are constantly dieting and having to watch what they eat. I'm thankful I don't have to deal with that. I'll likely never be overweight. That's a blessing.
5. CF has taught me discipline. It takes discipline to get up at 4:45am every morning and do a set of breathing treatments. It takes discipline to make sure that day in and day out I get my breathing treatments done. I have to exercise and take 20+ pills a day. I've had to learn to be disciplined to take care of myself. When you're disciplined in one are of life it tends to carry over into other areas of life. It's hard for young kids/teenagers to learn to be disciplined. Without CF, who knows how long it would have taken me to learn the same amount of discipline.
6. Discipline works very closely with Responsibility. In my late teens/twenties, I learned I was the one responsible for my health. I couldn't point the finger at anyone else. It is up to me to do my treatments, vest, take my pills, exercise, refill my prescriptions, make and go to my clinic appointments, monitor my health and know when I need a tune-up, etc., etc. When you have to be responsible in one area of your life, there's a good chance you'll become more responsible in all areas. It's just like discipline. That's kinda how it works.
7. CF has made me the man I am today. I can't imagine how different I would be, had I been born without Cystic Fibrosis. Honestly, I think I would be a far worse version of myself. Probably full of pride, and self-righteousness, and overall not a nice person. CF has kept me humble. It's helped teach me the true meaning of life and how precious it is. It's taught me to be kind. You never know what someone may be going through or struggling with. Many people look at CFers and think "They look healthy," and doubt how much they truly "struggle."
The truth is, God made me this way. He always has a plan. I am Jeremy Wayne Parks, and I have Cystic Fibrosis. It's just as much a part of me as my blue eyes and receding hair line, lol. It makes up who I am. I've had a lot of men to look up to and mentor me in my life, and I'm fairly proud of the man I am today. I strive to be a better one each day.
8. Lastly and most importantly to me, CF has strengthened my faith in God. I can't give all the credit to CF. God has played the role in shaping who I am today. CF just happened to be one of the tools He used. Anytime I've gone through something tough related to CF (anything I've gone through pales in comparison to what a lot of CFers have gone through) God has been there. It's almost an honor to have CF. If God chose to allow me to have CF, He saw something in me. Like He saw in Job. A perseverance and willingness to always rely on Him for strength and not depend on my own understanding and inadequate wisdom. I honestly don't think I could deal with having CF if I didn't have Jesus to depend on. I've been asked before why I'm not mad at God for "giving" me CF. The answer is simple. After all He's done for me, how could I be. He sent his one and only son, Jesus, to die for me, so that I could spend eternity in heaven. There's no way I could watch one of my boys die for the sins of someone else. It shows how much He loves me. Because I know how much He loves me, I know He'll take care of me, CF or not.
He can use my life with CF to impact this world and bring glory to His kingdom. Based on what people have told me, He already has. He has a plan much bigger than my own. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that God is in control. If God's will is for me to live to be 83 years old, nothing will stop that. If He chooses to take me today, He has a plan. A plan much better than any I could dream up. His plan for me just happens to include Cystic Fibrosis.