Healthy Living

Everything You Need to Know About Romance When You Have Cystic Fibrosis

In his recent article, Dell also shares with his readers a few lessons that he has learned based on his own experience of romance, as well as the lack of, while living with CF.

Everything You Need to Know About Romance When You Have Cystic Fibrosis

24 year old Brad Dell is a young man who is deaf and living with cystic fibrosis. In January of 2017, he received a double lung transplant from the University of California, San Francisco. When Dell is not testing out his new lungs with active physical activity or reading comic books, he is writing to spread awareness on CF and organ donation through his column titled “Victorious – A Column by Brad Dell”, which can be found on Cystic Fibrosis News Today.

In his most recent article, Dell talks about dating and living with CF. Dating can be complex, stressful, and tricky for any individual. However, for a person with cystic fibrosis, it can become impossible at times.

Dell was in a relationship with his then girlfriend for 6 years, from the age of 17 to 24.

Throughout the years, it seemed as though the couple’s bond was unbreakable. “People think of ‘sickness’ as being the complex part of ‘in sickness and in health.’ But once I recovered from my end-stage CF and deafness — through my transplant and cochlear implants — we realized our goals and priorities had drifted apart” wrote Dell. He had grown dependent on his girlfriend and she had found identity in caring for him. So, when the dependency suddenly became unnecessary, their roles in the relationship shifted.

At first, Dell was devastated and heartbroken, despite the fact that they both agreed breaking up was the best thing for their relationship. However, to this day, he continues to remain close friends with his ex-girlfriend. “How could we not feel a continued bond after she supported me through those countless days in the hospital, transplant, and deafness?” he wrote.

Dating in CF’s shadow

In his recent article, Dell also shares with his readers a few lessons that he has learned based on his own experience of romance, as well as the lack of, while living with CF.

  1. Dating is not easy – Being with someone who has CF comes with its own unique challenges. Prednisone rage, traumatizing hospital stays, sterility and infertility, mental health crises, fear of planning for the future – to name a few. The days can be unpredictable and they can take a toll on your relationship.
  2. Relationships can be motivating – Being in a relationship can be motivating, giving you the will to live and the will to love. For Dell, his then girlfriend served as his motivator. “I got the transplant because I dreamed of the future — unafraid for the first time in years. Although we didn’t stay together, I love my transplant life, and I’m relieved I took the tough track to thrive” he wrote.
  3. Breakups can bring rise to demotivation – After a breakup, you may lose your will to live. For this reason, it is important that you are loyal to yourself before becoming loyal to someone else. “If a relationship ends, you still need the will to take care of yourself” wrote Dell.
  4. It is OK to be single – After a breakup, it is perfectly normal to struggle with the idea of being single. For Dell, he felt as if he needed to jump into a new relationship in order to reclaim his ‘self worth’. “With terminal illness, it often seems like I’m racing the clock. But, dude, I’ll have many years ahead because I have learned to love myself enough that I chase life without pause. I am my motivator” he wrote. Having said that, it is necessary to take the time to focus on yourself, instead of the aspect of never finding a partner or rushing to find one.
  5. It is good to have high standards and then go higher – Before things move forward and get more serious, you need to inform your partner about your disease. If they cannot handle a life with chronic illness, it would be unfair to string them along. “It’s better than being in a long-term relationship with someone who isn’t prepared for your life storms” wrote Dell. Instead, keep searching for that special someone who is patient, open-minded, respectful, and relentless.

The third wheel in the relationship

When it comes to dating and living with CF, the whole idea can be daunting and challenging. “Normal” individuals (individuals who are in good health) do not have to deal with health issues such as excessive coughing, multiple medications, tune up hospitalization, etc. You may even find yourself building emotional walls because you fear unwanted invasions from others’ judgement and concerns. “These walls are built from the stones of fear and uncertainty, about being different, being unattractive, being unwanted. These walls make it difficult and usually impossible for those wanting to get close to us to break down” said Ella Balasa, a young woman living with CF.

For this reason, finding the right balance in your life is important. This means juggling to stay healthy, but also doing what makes you happy. It means finding someone who will encourage this balance, but also knowing when to slow down when there are bumps in the road. It means approaching a situation in a positive, instead of a negative, light. “When we aren’t afraid to be ourselves, we aren’t afraid of others. We aren’t afraid to speak our minds and people like that. They will want to be in your company. Everyone is attracted to confidence” said Balasa.

You may find yourself in a relationship where your partner embraces the challenges associated with CF and steps up to offer their support when you have lost your willpower. But, you may also find yourself in a relationship where your partner cannot figure out how to provide you with much needed support during the hard times. When it comes to romance, the unpredictability lies in finding “the one” and unfortunately, even someone who embraces the challenges associated with CF may not be it.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to learn is that being in a relationship can be great for an individual living with cystic fibrosis, as can being single. It’s all about balance and figuring it out as you go along the road called life. CF should not be the focus of the relationship, nor should it be a barrier to finding a partner – it is just a part that has to be dealt with as well.