Being a college student can be hard sometimes. Being a college student with a serious illness makes things even more difficult. At birth, I was diagnosed with a disease called cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic life-shortening disease that makes simple body processes, like breathing or digesting food, more complicated. However, with many advancements made in technology and medicine, the quality and length of life for people with this disease has dramatically improved as I’ve gotten older. Now, just shy of 20, I’m away at college and thriving in all aspects of life.
Life with CF can be frustrating at times. Between the number of pills, the breathing treatments, and chest percussion therapy, a lot of time and thought goes into maintaining my health. Because of the rigorous daily routine, going to college is a challenge for people with CF. We must have excellent time management skills to be able to balance school, health, and personal life. Our personal choices are based around our health instead of what might be popular. And while making friends hasn’t been affected, letting those new friends behind my protective barrier and allowing them to see this vulnerable side of me is hard to do. I went to a college away from some of my closest friends, a decision that left me outside my comfort zone. I was nervous about branching out and meeting new people, afraid of their reaction when they learned of my illness.
At the suggestion of my family, and after some persuading, I decided to go through formal recruitment. Did I think I would actually join a sorority? Not a chance. I did not think of myself as a “sorority girl.” However, once preference day came, I knew my heart was already with Sigma Kappa. After just in the few days of recruitment, I could tell that these girls were new friends I could trust.
With these newfound sisters also came a newfound fear: telling them my biggest secret. I have been closed off my entire life about CF because I never wanted to be labeled. I was an athlete, a singer, a Christian, a friend, a teammate, but never the “sick girl.” I was determined to not let CF label me in college, especially not with my new sisters. The last thing I wanted was for them to look at me and see “cystic fibrosis.”
At the end of my freshman year, I wrote a letter to our executive council asking if we could take on cystic fibrosis as a local philanthropy -- my first step at trusting my sisters with my secret. Our President, Sarah Carroll, said that my sisters would support me in any fundraising I did. At the start of my sophomore year, I knew the Great Strides 5K for cystic fibrosis was coming up soon and I decided it was time to open up and trust my sisters with the thing I’m most afraid of sharing. I stood up in chapter meeting to explain the race and why it was important to me personally. After my announcement, there was only positive support. My sisters in Sigma Kappa stayed true to me, as I knew in my heart they always would. The day of the race, my sisters drove an hour to walk with and support me. Those that couldn’t come donated money to the CF Foundation. My sisters in Sigma Kappa have just started a long journey with me in dealing with my life-long battle with CF, but I know that when things get tough, my sisters will always be there. I couldn’t do it without them.