In honor of Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month, today is a story time. It has to do with education, before your eyes glaze over from boredom let me explain.
For the last three weeks I have been battling some kind of allergy/cold mucus monster, and for anyone who is new and doesn’t know, I have Cystic Fibrosis. Which means I’m already a nasty mucus mess.
Having Cystic Fibrosis alone, I have a productive cough, (which basically means I always sound like I have a cold). So naturally I have experienced all the looks of disgust, and taken all the “comments”. Usually I don’t give a single thought to peoples comments or looks, heck most of the time I really don’t notice that. As I always say ignorance is bliss… Well at least that was the case when I was younger.
However, since I started working at my local pharmacy (yes I realize now that a pharmaceutical career probably was not my brightest idea), I have experienced an influx of “eww that doesn’t sound good” or “you sound how I feel”. Pre-pharmacy I would have ignored it, laughed it off even. But now it’s not so funny and I feel it is my job to politely educate people about my disease, because it might help someone out down the road who is suffering with an illness that might not feel like they can speak up. I feel like that at 23 years old I can speak up for myself and for others like me.
Since my job switch from bartending to RX girl (the irony is not lost on me), three months ago, I have told at least one person a day that I have Cystic Fibrosis. That means that no less than one person a day has had something to say about my cough or stuffy nose. Again I kind of set myself up for that working in a pharmacy, but I have the right to work and on an island I can’t be to picky. When allergy season roared its ugly head, exactly three weeks ago, my once a day education turned into about 5 education comments. But it was one particular comment that inspired this post.
Billy Bob Bunting came in five minutes from closing to pick up his prescription, I had been at work for a little over eight hours, I understand that is a normal work day for most…but when you don’t feel good eight hour feels like death. I was tired an starting to feel the day. My lungs were heavy, my cough medicine was wearing off, I was tired. Now Billy Bob Bunting is a nice guy, he was truly just trying to pick on me…but it backfired.
Like I said I was tired and so were my lungs. While I was ringing Billy Bob out I had a bronchial spasm. I moved to the back of the mat, turned away from him towards the wall, with my head tucked into my sweatshirt waiting for my lungs to pull themselves together. When the spasm had passed I proceeded to finish cashing him out, when Billy Bob said, “eww.”
I promptly said, “I’m not contagious”.
“Mhm, that’s what they all…” I cut him off before he could finish.
“I have Cystic Fibrosis”. It came out a little more stern then I planned, but I was irritated. The look on his face was pure panic.
He replied what everyone always replies, “I’m so sorry.”
I always want to say don’t apologize it’s not your fault I have Cystic Fibrosis…but you understand what they mean. I assured him that it was fine, all was good and how could he possible know I had C.F. it’s not like I was walking around with a big sign that says I have Cystic Fibrosis.
Our conversation ended with a tearful conversation with his empathy for my “situation” as his fiancé was living with MS and her good days were few and far between.
This is not the last time I will have a Billy Bob moment, but I am not better prepared to handle the situation. I can’t fault someone for not noticing an invisible disease, but I can and have the responsibility to help educate the people around me about my disease and others like me.
We all belong in this world.
First Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”