If You're Reading This, You're Alive

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Erin Evans

I should preface this by saying that sometime over the last few years or so I started to have a really hard time writing these blogs. I would start writing one but then second-guess and doubt everything that I was saying. They all felt so “preachy,” like I had it all figured out, which couldn't be further from the truth. Everything I write in this blog are things, or advice, I’m still working on myself. So with that being said…

Over the summer I took on the daunting task of cleaning out our garage. The majority of the clutter was my stuff. Lots of it was just junk that had gotten boxed up and forgotten about years and years before. I have a hard time letting go of things. I’ve literally saved every journal, photo, mixtape, souvenir, every piece of writing, and EVERY letter that was sent to me by friends/family, since… forever. In one particular shoebox, covered in cutouts from magazines and stickers, I found a few old journals, and underneath a folded piece of paper that was taped shut. I carefully opened what turned out to be letter that was dated in 1994 (I would have been 11) and began to read. The first line was “Dear Erin, if you’re reading this you’re alive.” I laughed a little (and cringed a little) reading the letter to my future self, that outlined the things I hoped to do in life and gave detailed advice on friendships, heartbreak, pets, and a whole lot of other things. Then I put it aside to dig into the next box.

I thought of that letter a lot over the next few months though, there was something about it that kept me coming back to those words. A deeper meaning, or the irony of it all, that the 11-year-old me may know more about life than the 37-year-old me. It was too much for my pandemic brain to grasp. So I let it go.

Near the end of 2020 it became obvious just how many people were ready to let the year go and move onto 2021. I’ve heard people talk about 2020 being a waste of a year or that they can’t wait for things to go back to “normal.” Which I can understand, to some extent. I'm definitely not going to say 2020 was the greatest year ever, for many (obvious) reasons. The thing is staying home, being cautious, and living in fear of one little germ ending your life, is what people with CF have always faced, and will continue to face, COVID vaccine or not. This is our normal, and I don’t think anyone with CF would say that their life has felt like a waste, these last 12 months included.

Honestly though, like many, I got caught up in the promise of the New Year and new things to come. But as those of us with CF know, things can change quickly. And they did. On December 29th I had a bronchoscopy that resulted in a hole in my lung, a night in the ER, a painful chest tube placement, and a week in the hospital on high levels of oxygen. Not to mention being absolutely terrified of getting COVID every single step of the way.

On New Years Eve, sitting in my hospital bed, listening to the hum of my oxygen, and missing my family and friends, I started thinking about the letter I had found in that shoebox. There was a reason it had survived 26 years, and a bigger reason why I had found it when I did. The truth is, I don’t know if the 11-year-old me who wrote that ever thought that the 37-year-old me would one day read it. At the time that I wrote it the life expectancy for someone with CF was probably only around 20 years old, if that. Yet the tone of the letter was strangely optimistic, with some brutal honesty mixed in, because what 11-year-old doesn't have it all figured out? For some crazy reason though, the letter, and I, have survived these last 26 years and I have to believe it has something to do with the girl who wrote it. If I could ask her why today I’m sure she’d have a whole lot to say about it. She was defintely not a second-guesser.

Everything that happened at the end of the year and then being in the hospital really shook me. Being in such a fragile state, confined to one room for over a week, without any visitors, knowing I was missing out on my son’s life, and possibly being exposed to COVID-19, left a huge mark on me. I told a friend of mine, it was like I walked into that hospital one person and came out someone completely different. Sometimes the universe has to shake you a little to make you open your eyes.

2020 was hard, for every single person on this planet. And even once we’re all vaccinated, there’s no going back to the “normal” we all knew pre-pandemic. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are not the same people we were last March. This pandemic has shaken us all and changed us in ways we might not even fully understand yet. It has pushed us to grow, and change, and learn, and adapt. And hopefully, we are better people because of it. As my 11-year-old self would say, “If you’re reading this, you’re alive.” That’s step one. You’re doing it. Now what?


    Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER- 




Erin Evans is 37 years old and has cystic fibrosis. She's worked with the CFLF for the last 13 years. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son. She can be contacted at: Erin@CFLF.org





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

***Please speak with your physician before making any changes to your CF management***


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