Tonight I got asked (indirectly) by a perfectly nice, normal person whether I thought being a lawyer had negatively impacted my health. No, she wasn't making a cute "attorneys are evil" joke -- although I was tempted to respond that my lungs were crappy even before I became a lawyer, but the loss of my soul took some getting used to. Ha, ha, ha, right? But no, she wasn't making a joke; she was actually quite serious and she was asking a question that probably others have wondered about as well.
The implication of her question (I think, as I said this woman was very nice and certainly didn't mean any offense) was that perhaps my job, back when I worked, was too stressful or took up too much of my time for me to really focus on my health. Or maybe she thought that I let my health slide because I was more focused on other things. Perhaps she was wondering if law school itself was too much of a strain, or if the 7 years in higher education was a good use of time for someone with a "fatal" lung disease. Maybe she just wondered whether it was "worth it" time wise for me to be so tied up in school when life is so precious. Maybe she didn't think through any of this and just asked the question because she was surprised to see someone with CF and a law degree -- especially someone waiting for transplant.
So in the interest of answering her question, and because I think it's an important topic given how important both my career and recent choice to take disability leave have been to this blog, I'm going to be totally honest here:
1) I can not now nor will I ever be able to say with 100% certainty that my career choice did not negatively impact my physical health; and
2) If I had it to do all over again tomorrow, I wouldn't change a single thing.
Let me tell you what I do know with 100% certainty. I know that I wanted to go to law school. Badly. It's what I wanted to do with my life, and completely independent of CF it had been my dream for a long time. I know that my health had begun to decline prior to entering law school, although my first couple of years there were not themselves extremely eventful CF-wise. I know that although my job was stressful and at times difficult, my compliance and time-management skills steadily improved throughout the time I was with my firm, actually increasing my chances of staying healthy in many ways. I know that I learned through my job to assert my needs as a CFer as well as a person, asking for days off when I needed them, learning to surrender to the hospital with grace instead of dread (okay, grace MIXED with dread!), and finally grasping how to ask for help when I needed it. I know that I equally learned how and when to push myself, what my limits really are, and how great it feels to meet a challenge everyone else said was impossible for me. I know that it was law school that brought me to New York, the city I love, just as I know that it was also law school that brought me to the doctors I trust with my life, whose advice, help, and wisdom I am so blessed to have experienced these past few years. I also know that when I finally did take disability leave, it had no apparent effect on the intensity, frequency, or general nature of my lung infections, but it did negatively affect my mental health and well being.
I know that I will never look back and think that CF held me back. Most of all, I know with 100% certainty that if I had to look a child with CF in the eye right now and say that it was worth it, I would do so without a second thought.
I don't believe everyone should go to law school, CF or no CF. That was my dream; it could just as easily be someone else's nightmare! But throughout my life there have always been people who have cocked their heads, pursed their lips, and wondered (sometimes out loud) whether I should be doing whatever activity it was that didn't "mesh" with their expectations for a CFer. And I do believe, very strongly, in defying those expectations and false limitations set on us by other people, or sometimes even by ourselves. Because the CFers I know are an amazing group of people -- and I really just refuse to believe that there's a spectrum of life that we cannot or should not participate in just because of our disease.
Maybe that makes me stubborn, but I'm 100% certain that it also makes me happy.
So would I still need a transplant if I had been, say, a sculptor instead of going to law school? Well, maybe, maybe not. I just can't say. In fact, I can't say how any single aspect of my life might have turned out differently had I made different choices along the way. It's not my job to know that, frankly, and neither is it anyone else's on this Earth. But what I can say is that if I had been a sculptor, well . . . I wouldn't have been a very good one, nor a very happy one. Trust me, my experience with the pottery wheel in Turkey when they tried to help me make a vase (end result: poorly constructed ashtray) was enough to teach me that much.
In case you're wondering, my real answer to the question was far more simple and to the point than this blog. I simply looked at this kind, well-meaning, and genuinely concerned woman and told her that I would never know why my health is what it is, but that I had made the decision to stay in the driver's seat of my own life for as long as I have it, and let my CF come along for the ride.
It may not be perfect, but that's definitely my final answer.
- I am a 33-year-old wife, sister, daughter, friend, law school graduate, CFer, lifelong student of public service, blog writer, patient, Sagittarius, reader, Top chef fan, double-lung transplant recipient (twice!), and dog owner living in Colorado's beautiful Mile High City. I love all things colorful, funny, inspiring, or needlessly sarcastic. I share my city with about 2,500,000 other remarkable people, share my disease with 70,000 other beautiful souls, share my life with some unbelievable family and friends, and share my apartment with one very handsome guy and one really fat mutt with a kick-butt personality. We make it work.
About This Blog:
This blog is about me, my life, my sometimes craziness, my disease, and my current journey as a double-lung transplant recipient. It's also a celebration of everyone out there with CF (and other chronic illnesses). It's for you, inspired by you, and dedicated to you -- the community that keeps me writing, living, and breathing.
Want to Contact Me?
Please email me suggestions, thoughts, comments, or criticism. Seriously, I love hearing from you guys!
Send all emails to:
- ► 2013 (30)
- ► 2012 (36)
- ► 2011 (42)
- ► 2010 (117)
- Not Your Average (Post) Thanksgiving Challenge
- Live. Love. Create.
- They Say It's Your Birthday
- And Every Breath We Drew Was Hallelujah
- Love Among the Lotus Flowers
- Musings on a Birthday Week
- Ode to Prednisone: A Late-Night Performance
- We're Number 1!
- Life Lessons
- Dear Random Guy
- Peripheral Vision
- Another Day
- Keep on Keepin' on Like a Bird That Flew . . .
- Piggish Post
- Fighting CF Never Looked So Cool
- ▼ November (17)
Alternative Medicine Anniversary Antibiotics Anxiety Artwork Attitude Awards/Opportunities Awareness Bacteria Birthday Bronch Career CF Clinic CF Community CF Story CFF Challenge Choices Clot CysticLife Death Diabetes Doctors Donor Bob Drugs Dry Run Education Evaluation Exercise Family Fevers Freematour Frequencer Fun Fundraising Goals Gratitude Great Strides Guest Blog H1N1 Healthcare Heart Hospital ICU Immuno-suppression IVs Lessons Life Listed Loss Marathon Meditation New Year New York Organ Donation Oxygen PFTs Poetry Polymyxin Port Positive Thinking Post-Transplant Prednisone questions rant Recovery Rejection Research Rock CF Sampson Scar Sick Girl Speaks Sickness Side Effects Solvay Cares Stream of Consciousness SVT t-shirts Team Boomer THE Call Therapy Transplant Transplant Clinic Treatments Vertex Waiting Weight Writing