Sunday, August 23, 2009


Dismissed. The word hit my stomach like a rock. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Just three classes away from getting my degree and I had been dismissed. The college didn't bother with a phone call or a formal letter. They merely sent an email. I sat there in my chair that Friday morning, looking at that computer screen in shock. I had just finished a harsh week of midterms and was getting ready to leave for another day of class.
I guess I should blame myself. I had picked a difficult major. Even by normal person standards, Genetics is a difficult and taxing major. I had thought that even with multiple hospitalizations, I could still keep up with the courses. I had thought that given my condition, my professors would be understanding. And while most were willing to let me make up missed labs and tests, there were a few instructors who refused to show any form of leniency.
That was what put me in this situation. I pushed myself to make it to each lecture, even when I wasn't feeling well. I had received an F. And that was enough for a dismissal.
I had planned to fight it even though I didn't know what the outcome would be. I had already figured out my options for if I didn't get reinstated. I wanted my degree. And if I couldn't get my degree in Genetics from a UC, then I would go to a state college and get a degree in biology. It wouldn't be a Genetics degree, but I could still carve out a future for myself in the scientific world. I felt better, just knowing I had a plan for each possible outcome made me feel prepared for anything. I would not be facing failure, just a possible change in direction.
While waiting on the outcome of my options, I decided to return to my first love, writing. I've been writing since I was ten years old. It was mostly just short stories and some journal writing. It's what provides the sanity in my chaotic life.
When I turned 25, I had decided that I would stop trying to pretend I was normal. It was exhausting, trying to appear normal and healthy in public, and trying to take care of myself in private. I had spent 25 years trying not to use Cystic Fibrosis as an excuse. I didn't want people pitying me. I was afraid that more people would be scared by my condition than already were. And I was afraid of receiving more rejection than I had already received. This and several other fears had plague me over my quarter century of life.
Over the years, I realized that by hiding the fact that I had Cystic Fibrosis from people, I was keeping a part of myself hidden. I had a skeleton in the closet that I shouldn't be ashamed about. I was refusing valuable opportunities to explain to people what I had and what Cystic Fibrosis does. And worse, I was leaving people in the unknown. And we, as a people, fear what we don't understand.
So at 25, I decided it was time to start being truthful on the subject of Cystic Fibrosis. I decided to start small, letting a few friends and a guy I was considering dating know I had Cystic Fibrosis. I even bought a couple of shirts stating that I had the disease.
Now at 27, I figure it's best to write it all down. At first I thought about doing an online scrapbook of the daily battle, but sometimes a picture doesn't always say everything a person hopes it will. I decided to instead to write about my experiences with living with the disease. I wanted to educate people about Cystic Fibrosis in a non-textbook style. I wanted to make Cystic Fibrosis less invisible to the world. And most of all, I wanted to stop hiding behind a facade of normalcy.
In a way you can call this book my coming out. Coming out about Cystic Fibrosis. Coming out about the daily battle 30,000 people in the United States population face.
In short, this is about my fight to inhale.