The Power of Choice

Posted by: 
Brian Callanan
Brian biking Key Biscayne

For those of us who live with cystic fibrosis (CF) in our lives, whether as the person with CF, or as a family member, friend or loved one close to someone with CF, having CF is not something we have a choice about.  It is a fact that CF is either a part of our life, or not. This is based on genetics from the moment of conception.  

CF, as we know, is not a condition that has periods of remission, or that we can take a vacation from.  It is there everyday, although some days are better and some days are worse. As Erin Evans wrote in her CFLF Blog article Twelve Things You Might Not Know About People With CF, But Probably Should, sometimes it takes superhuman strength to continually face the lifetime challenge of CF.  

Recently I have been struggling with the effort to 'achieve health' with my own CF.  There was a response to one of the CFLF Facebook posts froma a reader that said, "After working 9 1/2 hrs a day doing treatments & vest in the morning before work & then again after work & making dinner I don't have time or energy to exercise".  My initial response was "Yeah, I get it.  I recently feel the same way."  But then I remembered last week's CFLF Blog article by Mark Buschle A Little Help From Our Friends that, for some reason, really resonated with me and where I have been at lately. It reminded me that pushing ourselves is something we need to choose. It does not just happen.

The past six months held a lot of circumstances in my life that hindered my ability to exercise.  Two sinus infections last fall resulted in courses of Cipro and Levoquin (antibiotics) that cause muscles and ligaments to become rigid, ache, and have a greater likeliness for tearing.  So I held off on exercise for almost eight weeks. As I came off those, feeling a loss of stamina and activity level, I went to help my mother with surgery recovery, again hindering my availability to exercise for another six weeks. Then the holidays hit, and the inactivity continued. 

After almost four months of not exercising, I found myself feeling like the person who had commented on Facebook. I had so much work to do constantly on top of the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, shopping, banking, etc. that I did not have energy or motivation to exercise after that. But after reading Mark's article, it reminded me that pulling out of this slump was going to require CHOICE on my part.  

Brian at the gymI remembered a quote that I often share with others that says "Motivation does not necessarily PRECEDE physical action, but often can be something that is felt DURING or AFTER the action occurs." With this equation, the catalyst that causes physical action to occur is choice.  

In the reality of living everyday with CF as a part of my life, and without the support of a parent, spouse or partner to share in the the daily necessary tasks of life (i.e., cooking, cleaning, etc.) the choice for physical activity is all the more challenging. But the choice is not only about deciding to do an activity or not - it is about priorities.  

I know for all of us, that it is common and practical to prioritize work (income), eating, therapy and rest above all else. But for me, I know that when I am exercising on a regular basis, I have a better quality of life relating to my lungs, mindset, energy level, rest, appetite and relationships. When I do not exercise, I am more tired, more cranky, less interested, and more stressed especially with work, and I am more likely to get sick and be frustrated with my CF and the world around me. It is a viscious cycle that can snowball as well. 

So in the past few weeks, I have been slowly getting back on the horse with exercise. It is painful at times, and partially related to my being older now.  The pain seems to be a more significant factor to overcome in pushing out of this rut and getting back to a level of activity that I truly enjoy. It is not an easy process, but I am grateful that I have remembered that I need to choose to MAKE time for exercise, and COMMIT to the activity I am going to do as much as I would commit to my work, my therapy, or my relationships.

Brain swimming

I am again saying, "I am GOING TO swim today", instead of "I will TRY to swim today", and I am forcing myself to MAKE the time for it, even when I do not feel like I have the time or energy for it.  

This change in my life will not just happen on it's own.  I need to choose it.  If I do not choose it, I know that the consequences of cystic fibrosis WILL just happen on their own.  

Life can be tiring. Cystic firosis can be tiring. Life with cystic fibrosis can be exhausting. But it is a fact that the more physically fit and active I am, the more energy and stamina I have to keep up with the physical and psychological demands of life with cystic fibrosis.

I know that with, or without CF, choosing to be active is a constant struggle for everyone. However, the choice to make exercise a priority in my life is as critical as eating, drinking and sleeping, and will not only make my quality of life stronger, but I believe, longer as well. #STROLO





Brian cycling



Brian Callanan is currently 40-years-old, and was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth.  He is the Founder and Executive Director of the CFLF, and practices an active lifestyle primarily through swimming and cycling on and off road, but also enjoys snowboarding, hiking, sailing and rock-climbing. You may email him directly at


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



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