This is chapter 3 in my history.
The eigth year of my life had was a major turning point. In the few summers prior I had went to CF camp. A week up in the mountains with kids like me. Kids who took pills with every meal, kids who got thumps, kids who were thin as rails. I was one of the healthiest there. I had a window on what my future may be. I saw kids who took more pills, had CF Related Diabetes (CFRD), and the most fascinating to me, kids on nebulizers. I remember in my childhood naiivete, telling my parents that I would never need them, that I was going to stay healthy forever.
My parents never sugar coated what CF meant. Unlike so many others that I know, my parents never hid any facts from me about CF, not even the mortality factor. I knew CF was deadly. I knew I would have it for life. I knew that I wouldn't get old. But I was also eight... and things like that were beyond my level of true comprehension. Even though I knew, but didn't understand, I am forever thankful that my parents didn't hide anything from me. There are too many that found out CF is fatal from a teasing kid, an encyclopedia, or some news article. I got it from the people I love and trusted the most. But even that didn't make the blow of understanding come easily.
I don't even remember when it happened. Only that I was eight and that I was in third grade. A young girl that I had met at camp that summer, Amanda, was very sick, along with her sister. Amanda was my age, but her and her sisters time on earth was short. I don't know which one died first, or how close together that they both died, but I know one died closely after camp that summer. I think it may have been Amanda. Being so incredibly close in age, the same illness... it hit me. It took awhile... I'm not even sure how much longer after I found out... but I broke down. I remember very little about this time of my life. When I try to remember all I see is blankness and feel fear, panic, and sadness fill my chest. So I will recount some of what my mother told me about what happened.
I was at school, when suddenly I broke down crying. My teacher figured out that it was something unrelated to school and called my mother. I was scared out of my mind. The reality of "fatal" had hit me. I may have even went home from school that day. For about three weeks the usual bubbly, happy, loud Talana was gone. She was weepy, sad, despondent. I cried a lot, I needed a lot of hugs and quiet time. I was a shell of myself. School was hard, home life was hard, I stopped both inside and out. I now understood phrases like "average life expectancy of 25", "progressive", and "incurable". Before I knew them... then I understood. It was a lot for an eight-year-old.
The last part though, I remember. It was a sunny day. The sun was setting between the trees over the creek. I was standing in our driveway looking at it. I looked up at the sky. I turned and watched my father work in the garden, heard my mother in the kitchen. And suddenly it was okay. I couldn't change any of those phrases that made my heart so heavy. I couldn't bring back any of the children that had died of CF. But I could live. I could run, play, laugh, smile, and love. I would be okay... I was alive, so I may as well live. I walked up to my dad in the garden and gave him a hug, full of life. It was my way of telling him that I was okay.
Morbidity is a concept that shouldn't be so profoundly understood by an eight-year-old child, but that is the reality of CF. I also remember not being able to remember the past few weeks right after I "woke" up. My mind blocked it from me almost immediately. A blessing, maybe. I'm not sure.
I can't say that I've always had a rosy attitude since then... but in moments that profoundly changed my life, that ranks high. It's a part of me, something that CF caused that made me different than everyone else. As traumatic as it was, in some ways it was also a gift. I understood how precious life was. It changed how I approached so many things. It made me a smarter person.