34 Years

Posted by: 
Mark Buschle

Very soon I will celebrate my birthday. It’s a big one, especially for someone with Cystic Fibrosis. At the end of March, I will hit the big 5-0. An age that most people dread, most people hide, and most people reach. Reaching 50 years old is never a given and that is even more so within the CF community.

As a kid, I was well aware that the average life expectancy was only 16. I celebrated that year, without realizing the significance of it at the time. I got my drivers license, I drove fast and wrecklessly, and I spent a lot of time with my best friends. Typical stupid kid stuff.

This will be my second birthday celebrated during the pandemic. A pandemic that has had dramatic effects on my family, my friends, and touched everyone in one way or another. But it has also allowed me to slow down and reflect on a life that has been in overtime for quite a while.

In 1988, as a junior in high school, just before I turned 17, I lost my sister Judy to CF. She was almost 31 years old, but the disease had ravaged her body for years. By the time she left us, she was only a shell of her former self. I was lost, overcome with a grief that I didn’t know how to process. It took me a long time to ask for help but I eventually worked my way through it. It was then that I decided that I would live my life the way I wanted. Not in fear of what was to come but in the joy that can be found in every day life.

In the extra 34 years that I’ve had so far, I’ve seen and done so much. I met my beautiful wife, a Nurse Practitioner, who has worked on the COVID-19 vaccine trials for the last year. We have two children, both sophomores, at different levels in the education system. They are smart, talented, and most importantly kind hearted. I’ve gotten my black belt in Aikido, played the solo trumpet book in a big band, gotten into mountain biking, and then lost most of it at one time. I have several great friends. You know, the kind that you can not see for a long time but then when you do it’s like you didn’t miss a beat.

I’ve also had loss over those 34 years. The most obvious is from the pandemic. I haven’t personally lost anyone to COVID-19, but we’ve all lost time with loved ones, lost sleep, and been stressed about it for one reason or another. I’ve lost a sister, a brother, my only grandparent, my father in law, and both of my parents over the years. I’ve lost a job, and was out of work for over a year, but I gained a much better career because of it. There have been cancers, and heart attacks, and dementia, and Alzheimer’s. To be honest, there’s been a lot of both good and bad.

Throughout it all, the good has certainly outweighed the bad. It has all been made possible by the extra 34 years. Those 34 years have been made possible by an incredibly strong community. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has worked for 65 years to improve the lives of those of us with CF. They’ve funded countless research studies, started support groups, and provided help with dealing with insurance companies. Other’s, like the CF Lifestyle Foundation, have helped to make life more normal for those of us with CF. Providing an opportunity to experience parts of life that may not be accessible otherwise. There have been marathon groups, and cycling groups, and walking groups.  

There have been many doctors and nurses over the years. The nurses, who are the heart and soul of the CF care team, Jeanne Wieland, Vikki Koceila, and Melenie Meyers. The doctors, who have helped me balance the quality and quantity of life scale, Dr. Frank Kellogg, Dr. Robert Wilmott, Dr. Michael Fiedler, Dr. Patricia Joseph, Dr. Caroline Mueller, Dr. Maria Indihar, and Dr. Leslie Applegate. And how could I not mention some of my favorite supporters; Karen Montag-Leifling - my favorite social worker, the best CFF staffers ever (current and former) - Ali Bethel, Jess Sikora, Laura Morgan, and Kristi Snuttjer McAllister, my hero, my running coach - Wayne Wheeler, my multiple marathon partners - Amye Leifling and Rob Runkle, my good friend and trumpet instructor, Bob Dreyer, my pup’s favorite walking friends, Joan and Jim Bob, and finally my great friends Brian Schneiders, Andy Cann, and Janet Harp. There are certainly others I’ve forgotten to mention, but they are always in my heart.

Finally, none of those 34 years would have been possible without my family. My wife Kristen, my children Michael and Katie, and my pup Leo. They love me and support me through the good times and the bad. My brothers and sisters, Tom, Timmy, Dave, Barb, Nick, Marilou, Judy, Rick, Pete, Greg, Patty, and Matt. And of course, the couple that started it all, Earle and Mary Buschle. Two of the strongest, most caring people I’ve ever known.

The question is, what’s next? What do I do going forward? In the short term, I’ll teach my daughter to drive a stickshift. There’s no question in my mind that everyone should know how. There’s work to be done on the house, with a lot of help from the family. I’m looking forward to seeing my kids graduate, one from high school, one from college. I have plans for my career and where I’d like to go. I dare to think of what I’ll do when I retire. Something I never thought I’d reach. Will we travel, will we do volunteer work, will I pick up old hobbies again? Will we be grandparents? Will I finally be able to reach the childhood dream of owning a 911? I don’t know the answers to any of these. But I do know that I can dream of all of them. Dreams that can only come true with a little help from my friends and a lot of hard work.

Here’s to the past 34 years and looking forward to the next 34!


    Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER- 




Mark Buschle lives in northern Kentucky with his wife, two children, and the family Labrador Retriever.  He enjoys the martial arts, playing the trumpet, and spending time with his family.  He was a marathon runner, in a previous life, completing four full and 10 half marathons.






***Views expressed in the CFLF Blog are those of the bloggers themselves and not necessarily of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation*** 

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