Teaching Through Example

Originally Posted on www.cff.org on October 23, 2015

The morning started like most mornings. I hide under the covers in painful denial of the choice that I must make: getting up and exercising. I am acutely aware of the countless benefits, both physically and psychologically, yet the covers and the comfort of my bed often win. The sound that finally brings me upright is the familiar series of coughs from the bedroom next to mine.

It shakes my body to the core, reminding me that even on Christmas morning, cystic fibrosis does not take a break. She wakes up with a smile, looks at me with those beautiful blue eyes begging for reprieve and says, “Momma -- it's Christmas, do I have to do treatment today?” I gave her the same rote response that always follows this type of question. I envelope her in a hug, and when I pull back she looks at me with the sincere naivety of a child. A small tear falls down her face as she says, “I know, but it's not fair because no one else in our family has to do something every day.” She runs upstairs, and I sit with my own tears and emotions for a moment.

I start thinking about the beautiful view that carries me along the run at my parent's house on Flathead Lake. Motivated by the view swirling in my head, I decide to put on my much-neglected running shoes to clear my head. I immediately feel the cold penetrate my lungs: tight and uncomfortable. My shoes hit the icy pavement with rhythm and steadfastness. I decide where to turn around based on the reward of viewing the overlook of the cherry orchard with the lake spanning the eye's view. As I run up and down the hills along the lake, I think of nothing other than my daughter's comment to me.

I have spent many days trying to impart my commitment to her in her fight with CF but, in the end, she feels that she is the only one sacrificing. My heart aches with grief that she feels so alone. So I make a decision, and just not a New Year's resolution that will be fickle and will eventually fade. I make a commitment to my daughter, my hero. I will be her role model. I will become her partner in her fight against CF. I will exercise every day, not because I want to, but as a testament to my daughter and the hurdles in her life. I take a moment to reprimand myself for forgetting the importance of teaching through example. Then, I focus on change. Any time my adherence waivers, I will look to her commitment and it will be my new motivation. She gets no days off, has no immediate rewards and yet day in, day out, she follows the treatment plan that has been chosen for her.

I pick up my pace as I am about to reach the top of the final hill and the view that awaits me. As I arrive, my heart sinks. The fog still hovers over the lake and orchard, and all I can see is the fence surrounding the apple trees. I want to stop and cry at this reward that I cannot claim. I immediately realize that this anticlimactic end is more common than not for my daughter. She often sees the course that lies ahead, but then something, like a bacterium, is introduced and additional treatments are thrown at her. More antibiotics and GI distress follow, and doctor's appointments take over where play dates should be.

Today marks the first day of the rest of my life. And I will use it to encourage and lead my hero through the foggy views that lie ahead.