Many Hands Make Light Work

Posted by: 
Brian Callanan

My mom always would tell us “Many hands make light work” when she was trying to convince us to help with gardening, or house chores, or something we didn’t necessarily want to do.  However, it was true.  And I found the experience would even at times become enjoyable, working together to get the job done. 

Teamwork, whether working at a chore, on a project, or at a sport is typically a positive experience, and most often results in outcomes and accomplishments greater than what would be possible by going it alone.

In regard to my CF, however, the greatest challenge I have found has been that of allowing people into that sacred space to help.   This is again where exercise and recreation activities have played a critical role for me. 

As is common for us with CF, we become experts in the disease, its personal manifestations, our own treatment strategies, and technical terminology.  I have found myself more as a partner with my CF care providers than a patient.  My ongoing clinical treatment is more of a dialogue of management than a directive of instructions.

But, at best, this teamwork occurs a few hours every three months.  What about the other 89 days between visits to the CF clinic?  Is it really up to me to shoulder the responsibilities of CF?  Not necessarily.

As I entered adolescence, and young adulthood, and began taking the reins of my CF care, especially when going off to college, my reliance on my parents was gradually decreased, and I did not have a significant other or partner I could share this personal daily challenge with.  So during that period of time, yes, I was feeling as though I was going it alone.

Targhee Pic

Skiing was my athletic niche early in life, and was what influenced my decision to attend college in Vermont.  The time I spent on the slopes was where I found myself at my best – physically, socially and emotionally.  It was where I shared a sense of achievement and ability.  But the slopes are where I shared with my peers experiences of pushing my limits, and taking risks which often created situations requiring significant levels of trust in the people I was with. 

When the snow eventually melted, the developing friendships of trust continued into other areas of recreation activities, as well as into personal areas including sharing of my CF.  These friendships, built through recreation, evolved into an integral part of my support system.

Tahoe picOne of the double edge swords with having a therapy vest for my airway clearance, was that I could have the freedom to do it whenever I wanted, but could also avoid doing it with no one to force it on me.  With the inclusion of friends as a part of my support network, there was a new sense of accountability, which became infused into those 89 days between clinic visits.

CF related questions started becoming a normal part of my friendships - Why are you coughing so much?  You sound terrible?  Have you done your therapy? Why don’t you go do it before we go out? Are these wings going to give you cramps? Are you going to take extra pills?

Having always taken great pride in the non-stop effort required to keep my CF effectively managed, humility allows acceptance of sometimes needing help, and allowing others in.  Whether it is the good times of merely maintaining my health, or the more strenuous times of being hospitalized, the many hands offering help and support are often likely to result in an outcome greater than going it alone. 

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