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Thursday, May 15, 2014

I'm Thankful for CF

I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time. Cystic Fibrosis has taught me a lot in life, and in some ways been a blessing in disguise. I know it may sound crazy, but in many ways I'm thankful I have CF. Here are some of the reasons: 

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. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Spouses, Savior & "Normal"

We started this a week ago but never posted it. So, here is our Thankful Thursday post from last week for this week's Thankful Thursday post that we haven't done in a very long time! (Whew! That was a mouthful)

It's been awhile since we've done a Thankful Thursday post! There's always something to be thankful for. Even in the midst of a storm, there's something. The past 5 weeks have been extremely rough on us. It's been the most challenging time we've had. I've had some of the scariest moments I've had to date related to my health. For Monica, I know it has been especially rough. For the first couple weeks after surgery, I was pretty much out of commission. She had to do pretty much everything around the house and with the boys. It wasn't just the physical toll it took on her, but the emotional as well. Watching me go through some very tough moments with my health was hard for her. It brought on all kinds of feelings of worry and fear for both of us. Thoughts of what the future will hold and how with CF although there are plenty of times of good health, the overall trend will go downwards. This was nothing compared to what a lung transplant will entail, and it has opened our eyes to the struggles we will face someday.  I've always said though, CF is hardest on those who are closest to the person with CF (in most cases their spouse). I truly believe my having CF is harder on Monica than it is on me. Thankfully we know who holds tomorrow and trust Him completely. That being said, we are past the worst of it. My PFT's are coming back up toward normal and I'm very close to being back to my usual state of physical health. I've taken on the task of all the house work (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.) and twin duties for the past few weeks, since I'm still out from work. Mr. Mom ain't so bad, lol. :)

Right now it's Thankful Thursday! As I said there are always things to be thankful for! Here's our lists:

Monica's List:

I am thankful for my husband. Can I just be real here? Can I just say that sometimes I'm not always positive? And sometimes being a CF wife is hard. I mean if I'm being real, I can admit that even though I try to always be the girl with a positive smile, that's not always the girl inside. To be honest, in the hard times I do have moments that I wish that Jeremy and I had a "normal" life. I guess when we think normal it'd be a life where he didn't have CF and the trials it brings? But  you know what? There's a lot of people in this world who would love to have our life. There's people that have so much bigger problems than we do. And they might would look at our life and say, "Man, I wish I had a "normal" life like Jeremy and Monica." People who are: starving in other countries, in the middle of war, sold in trafficking, orphans, persecuted for their faith, physically disabled. They'd love for the chance at our "normal." God forgive me for not being thankful for my "normal" life. It has been perfectly crafted by you and I am thankful for it! And thank you to my husband for loving me when I'm not so lovable! I'd marry you again Pookiebear!

I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I tell Jeremy all the time that I don't know how people go on with out the faith we have. We all have our own burdens and trials. It is so encouraging to know that Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

For those who ask me how I know Jesus is real and alive... I will say. "You ask me how I know he lives, He lives within my heart!" I have absolutely felt His touch so real in my life. All I have to do is whisper His name ,and in my darkest hours he has proved to me that He sees me, loves me, and cares about every aspect of my life! Wow, that's pretty Awesome! I can tell you right now, there's something precious about needing God. We all need God every day. Sometimes we don't realize it though because everything is going so "perfect", and what do we really actually "need" Him for? I know my walk with God wouldn't be as strong as it is without my constant need for Him. God has used CF in my life to draw me closer to His side. It is so neat how he works! Praise God!!! I'm about to start preaching!!! :)

Jeremy's List:

I'm thankful for speaking opportunities. I was able to travel and speak at another RT conference this week about CF. It is always fun! I enjoy the traveling process. Seeing different airports, flying, it's all fun in a childlike way to me, lol. I also really enjoy speaking. It's become a true love of mine. I'm not a super outgoing guy and tend to keep to myself when I'm traveling or around people I don't know. When I get on stage and am able to talk about something I'm passionate about (CF), somehow it just comes second nature. It's easy and I really enjoy it. I like the questions I get afterwards. I can tell people are learning and are inquisitive. It's awesome! I always get to meet at least a couple parents of CFers as well. It's always nice to encourage them and answer any of their questions. I really enjoy it!

I'm thankful for CFit and Ronnie Sharpe. As most of you know, I am in a program called CFit. It's a fitness/nutrition program for people with CF. I was one of ten very lucky individuals to get picked to participate. When you have abdominal surgery and a 9 inch incision running vertically down your stomach, you can't lift weights or run, lol. The surgery brought the CFit program to a complete halt. I thought it was done and over. After all, I couldn't run 3 days or lift 3 days a week like I was. No lifting anything over 10 pounds for 6 weeks and running would be far too painful. In my mind I was thinking what's the point of continuing. I can't do anything. Ronnie told me he was with me for the long haul and wanted to help me get back to and beyond the shape I was in. If it hadn't been for him, I know I would not have pushed myself as hard to recover like I have. He's stuck with me, continuing to do our weekly phone calls and giving me weekly goal sheets. The goal sheets now are super wimpy compared to what they were, but it's progress. :) I'm thankful for his dedication to me. He owes me nothing and is doing it simply because he's a great guy! Thanks Coach!

I'm thankful for my wife. I've never loved someone the way I love her and didn't know it was possible. She has brought a joy into my life that I didn't know a spouse could bring. Life is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with. It's even better when you don't want to spend a minute away from that person. It's not easy being married to someone with this disease. There's a lot of sacrifices and struggles that only those married to someone with CF will know or understand. I'm thankful she hasn't split like pea soup ;) Kidding of course. I love my wife!!

P.S. I'm back to work now, but will be out again starting Monday for a "tune-up." Lungs still aren't in tip top shape. It's not going to be fun at all going back in The Hole 7 weeks after I got out from having a major surgery. Also, I hope this post didn't sound too negative in the intro. After re-reading it, I almost changed a few things but opted to leave it as written the first time, when I was going through it.