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Adjusting to Life As an “Old CFer”

Senior couple smiling portrait outdoorsNearly three years ago, I turned 30 and was rewarded with an awesome stainless steel grill to mark the milestone. Thanks, Beautiful! Since then, my appetite has decreased, my weight has (finally) increased, and I’ve been met with some really bad days recovering from things that used to pose no problem. Since returning from our second cross-country trip to and from Ohio in 8 weeks, I thought it’d be good to discuss how our bodies change as we get older.

I used to run all day and all night, only getting a couple of hours of sleep. When dating, I’d get up at 4am, be at work by 5am, get off work at 3:30, drive across town, and wait for Beautiful to get out of class and stay out with her until midnight… or later. Rinse and repeat. On days she worked, I’d go to Barnes & Noble and catch some winks in the comfy chairs until her shift was over. We did this for days at a time.

Stupid.

I used to have a very physical job in construction material testing. I moved several hundred pounds of 40-pound concrete cylinders by 7am and then moved, packed, and tested a solid ton of dirt throughout the day. Other days, I lugged around a 60-lb radioactive density tester around development sites that I stuck into the ground by driving an 18″ stake into the packed foundations of roads waiting to be paved.

The reality of aging with CF

What I’ve learned (but very slowly taken action as a result of knowing) is that I need far longer to recover from activity than I used to AND from doing things that I do with others. If we spend all day out and about on vacation, it’s pretty much a given that I need to rest the next day. Even things as simple as being outside my comfort zone and being social for a weekend takes its toll on me. Some things that have made me sick in the last 3 years or that I’ve learned the need to recover from:

  • travel by air or car
  • weekend conferences (even a 1-day conference)
  • moving
  • putting together furniture
  • painting a room
  • stress from a project with a tight deadline or finicky client

Feeling less

These things all make me feel like I’m less of a person than my friends and Beautiful. Feeling less of a man, especially when things like this happen:

When we were at Niagara Falls spending our anniversary day away from the hotel and walking around the river and up/down the hills of the tourist areas, I had to stop to sit down far more often than was manly to do. Beautiful was consistently asking me if I needed to sit a spell, which I absolutely adored her for noticing I was struggling, but also something I loathed for my need to do so. Sometimes I turned down the idea just so we could get where we were going. Then came lunch.

We were right at the falls and went inside the main building to eat. She packed her allergy-free take-out container for her lunch, but I needed to find something. I was so winded and my legs had so much lactic acid, she had me sit on a bench while she scoped out the building to see what restaurants were available. I was unable to be the manly man at all. If I was with anyone else, I just might have expired from shame and embarrassment – or possibly pride, because I would have felt like I needed to press on so I didn’t inconvenience anyone.

For such a wonderful woman, I was almost in tears as I sat on the bench feeling loved by such a sweet act.

The return

When we got back to the farm the next evening, I was so exhausted, I wasn’t even able to seem happy to be home to see everyone again. In hindsight I should have said something like, “I’m happy to be home, but I can’t even talk now until I rest a while.” It took a good 2 or 3 days to recover from our trip, but I did what I needed to do and avoided any flare up in my lungs. We took 2 days to drive back home from Ohio and I took the entire next day to sleep in, have fun with websites, our photos, watching TV, and playing computer games.

A weekend to recover

Last week was a nursery week. We painted the nursery, got a donated crib from a friend of a friend (which I put together Saturday), and I worked a couple of evenings on an urgent project. Other than putting the crib together, I didn’t do anything on Saturday except eat snacks and watch TV yet I was still too exhausted to go to church. Beautiful was feeling weird to her stomach, so we stayed home at my discretion to take a “stay healthy” day. It takes a lot for me to skip, but I just had a gut feeling that if I went anyway, I’d end up missing a day or more of productivity this week with my energy tank on empty.

What have you found exhausts you and what do you do differently from your younger days to avoid getting sick?

Comments

  1. MeganMurray says:

    What a wonderful post! I have found that stress is a really hard one for me to recover from. I also have found that not getting enough sleep does a number on me as well. I usually have to spend a day relaxing on the couch after either of those get the best of me. I’m ok to have this happen though, as long as it means we’re getting older! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jesse Petersen says:

      @MeganMurray Older is way better than the alternative, eh? It has taken a LOT of adjustment to learn to rest. I’m not good at it because I get haunted by my old lazy days. I used to be lazy, but I clearly kicked that to the curb and fear that too many days off will make me revert. Even after vacation, it takes me a few days – sometimes a week – to get motivated to work again. A new project usually does the trick and I get everything back in motion.

  2. RonnieSharpe says:

    Feel you on pretty much all fronts. There is no doubt that I often have to recover from “vacations”. Painting? Forget about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jesse Petersen says:

      @RonnieSharpe If I didn’t like painting, I wouldn’t do it. Every time we do it, though, I hit a wall where I just want to get done no matter how late it takes. I did our bathroom pretty much sick because I’d started and didn’t have it in me to stop.

  3. Jesse Petersen says:

    Sorry for the delay… I’m not getting any notices of comments. I’ll have to look into that.

  4. Hey Jesse,

    Don’t feel bad about being “out of it” when you got back from Niagara Falls. We all understood completely. It’s easy for the rest of us “normal” people to forget that you’re not getting nearly as much air as we are. So don’t ever be ashamed to say, “Hey, I gotta catch my breath.” You’re operating at about 15,000 feet above sea level while the person next to you is strolling on Clearwater Beach.