Life’s Greatest Teacher

Posted by: 
Klyn Elsbury

They looked at me, their faces full of a tragic mix of concern, confusion, and pity, while I coughed and choked on my phlegm for the 2nd time during our dinner double date.

“This is just what she does,” my boyfriend explained as I concentrated on slowing my breathing down and trying to hold back another round of coughing. 

I tightened my abs to control my diaphragm to prevent the all-out war from escaping my lips as it escalated within my chest. “It’s true, I’m a professional cougher.” I squeak out between labored breaths.

Our double date smiled, the look of concern vanishing and the look of acceptance washing over them. 

But after that cough, something else shifted.

We were no longer on a double date with a couple we’d had a few encounters with. The conversation shifted from small talk, to authentic and powerful vulnerability. We discussed the true essence of who we believe we are, our purpose, our mission statements, we even reflected on the events in our childhoods that lead us to where we are today.

The four of us laughed, and poured another round of wine as we brought up our personal stories, our darkest days, what we did when our backs were against a proverbial wall and we felt we had no way out.

As my boyfriend and I walked to our car to leave, we all exchanged our ‘good bye’ hugs. 

But these weren’t the type of hugs that people are obligated to give after meeting, they were the type of hugs that exchange genuine love between two people when they experience a moment of serendipitous clarity.


I read a quote once about how if we could physically manifest our problems into an object, and put that object in the middle of a pile with everyone else’s problems, we’d reach quickly to take our's back so we wouldn’t be stuck with anyone else’s. 

I’d rather have Cystic Fibrosis than anything else in the world. 

There are moments I prefer not to repeat, like the whole never-ending-cough, but at the end of the day, I put my head on my pillow…happy. 


Because this disease taught me my life’s greatest lesson. 
And in the moments where I’m embarrassed by it, I’m reminded why I would enthusiastically race to pick it out again in a pile of problems.

Cystic Fibrosis is love.

You know how your alarm clock wakes you up in the morning? 
The second you open your eyes, you think of all the things you have to do?
The people you will encounter?
The meetings you must attend?

My alarm cough does the same.
The second I open my eyes, I think about all the experiences I’m lucky enough to be alive to see.
The people who show love without restraint.
The encounters I’m fortunate to have.

Every time my lungs go off, I am reminded I have the day ahead of me. I’m alive. I’m not a statistic, or another person that has passed on too young.

And, I’d like to think, Cystic Fibrosis is a reminder for those I meet to spend a few extra hours at home, playing with their kids instead of typing on a keyboard at the office.

I’d like to think, Cystic Fibrosis is the medium in which all of the love I have ever experienced and will ever experience, has rushed in and been given out.

I’d like to think this disease is why my parents never missed one of my sporting events and always were there for me when I wasn’t even there for myself.

I’d like to think Cystic Fibrosis is the reason my boyfriend surprised me with a vacation that we always vowed to experience “someday” because all of these hospitalizations are reminders that someday never comes.

I’d like to think my frequent hospitalizations remind others to give genuine hugs, not obligatory ones.
-To be vulnerable
-To share authentically and
-To lead from the heart. 

To get past the surface level “how is your day” conversation and into the “tell me what your life is really like” moments. 

The flower associated with love, is a red rose. It seems fitting we teach children to pronounce this disease as “65 Roses." Maybe, just maybe, Cystic Fibrosis is love.  



Klyn Elsbury is the author of international best-seller, I AM ___:The Untold Story of Success.

I AM _: The Untold Story of Success is a blend of raw emotion and inspiring wisdom. It draws a parallel between what it means to live as if every day is your last and what it means to create a highly impactful legacy through entrepreneurship and athleticism. Through gripping interviews with influential entrepreneurs and athletes such as Boomer Esiason, Sharon Lechter, the co-founder of Netflix, and many others; the reader is taken on a journey of what success is, what success is not, and how you can live a powerful life while creating change in the world.

She currently lives in California with the love of her life.

Her story has been featured in numerous publications including Manifest Station, Zumba blog, and she has appeared on several shows including KPBS, NPR, Connected Women of Influence, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. She is a nationally recognized speaker who spoke alongside Tony Hawk, Bill Walton, Shep Gordon, and Ryan Holiday at Entrepreneurs Organization  Alchemy conference in 2017.


                                                                                  Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER- 


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


To receive an e-mail notification and link to the new CFLF blog post each week please e-mail to be added to our list.


Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <h3> <h4> <h5>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Support CFLF