Thursday, April 28, 2016

Three Simple Words

Everything is different. Three simple words that will live within me for the rest of my days and upon every breath that I am given. Tears still fill my eyes as those three words resonate in my mind. I can hear the tone in Mark’s voice as he said them, and I can trace the painful and loving honesty in which they were born to an uncontrollable truth that silently fills our life together. The uncontrollable truth called cystic fibrosis. Indeed, everything is different, but it was an honest difference I thought only I could see.

Why are those words so difficult to hear? Because I didn’t know the differences that existed intrinsically within me were noticeable to the outside world, most of all to those I love. I thought I had hidden them deep within the most cavernous parts of my being for no one to see or experience. But I was reminded that it’s not just me enduring the barrage of potent antibiotics and the effects of CF, but that their impact is much farther reaching. That their devastation silently touches all those present in my life. Suddenly, I felt exposed and like I had failed. I had failed at protecting those I love from me, from CF. Most of all, however, I felt as if I failed at protecting Mark.

The Difference Within
I don’t think Mark fully knew the extent of those three simple words and the depth of their meaning. Just how different is everything? How different am I?  Here’s an honest glimpse: 

For five weeks potent drugs saturated every ounce of my being – unknowingly permeating every part of my conscious and unconscious existence. Toxic drugs laden with a desperate unspoken hope silently infiltrated my body from within - making me slowly feel like a stranger within my own body. With every infiltration of antibiotics it seemingly gets harder to navigate this body that feels as if it’s becoming more and more foreign to me. I don’t recognize this body that has accompanied me for more than 29 years. As these drugs always seem to silently strip me of myself, I feel a bit of who I am slowly slip through my fingers. I desperately try to hold onto any familiar part of my existence. I push myself harder, constantly trying to prove to myself that I am in control - holding onto anything recognizable within myself. But there are times such powerful drugs and CF feel as if they are whitewashing every part of me – stealing my thoughts, focus, vibrancy, and self-trust.

I anxiously retreat away from the world, terrified that I am unrecognizable not only to myself but to those I love as well. Terrified that I will fail to be the person they need and lovingly know. I do my best to pretend all is fine. I do my best to pretend and prove that I am better than fine. Desperately trying to prove that no matter the merciless pounding from CF itself and the antibiotics I take, I am immovable, unshakable, and unstoppable – all in hopes of protecting those I love from the wake of CF. Even now, I feel a devastating (and knowingly ridiculous) disappointment in myself and my inability to hide such differences and protect those I love from myself and CF.

To Be Me
My heart turns back to Mark, thinking of what he’s silently endured and wondering the extent of such pain I have unknowingly caused him through the years. He has never shown any anger, disappointment, or remorse for this life with me - no matter how different everything at times may seem. He may never know the true impact of those three simple words, but I will always remember their deep and life-changing meaning that were born of the deepest love and honesty.

I know at the core of my being I can’t fully protect him or those I love from the brutal realities and effects of CF. It’s a truth itself just like CF. Yes, indeed, everything is different, but one thing will always remain the same: the endless gratitude that fills my very existence. My gratitude for every beautiful breath that I am given and the beautiful love that fills my life. Love to you all.

What has someone said to you that has left you changed?


  1. "There is an abnormality on her newborn screen." I've had to hear that twice in the last 5 years, and I still feel like I'm on the rollarcoaster of change. A new lense was given to me on each of those days. A different way of looking at life in general and motherhood in particular. A deeper understanding of pain and also this new appreciation of health and hope. Your courage and honesty are an encouragement to me Ashley!

    1. Those are words that no one should ever have to endure, let alone live with. I can only imagine how they have changed you as a person, your perspective on life, and the love and appreciation for your girls. The roller coaster of CF will take steep turns and have highs and lows, but with that ride comes a deep appreciation and love for life that is irreplaceable. Your girls have an incredible advocate in you. Anything is possible with you believing in them.