7 Things You Should Know About Living With Cystic Fibrosis And Balancing A Life In College

7 Things You Should Know About Living With Cystic Fibrosis And Balancing A Life In College

There are lots of days, my best days, where I'm just tired all the time.

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes a build-up of mucus in the lungs and can lead to severe respiratory problems. It is estimated that 30,000 Americans suffer from the disease, and Brianna Settlemyer is one such citizen kind of enough to grant me an interview about living with CF.

1. What is something you wish people understood about your disease?

I wish people understood that just because you can’t see my disease doesn’t make it any less real for me. There are lots of days, my best days, where I'm just tired all the time. Breathing is something no one thinks about doing and so it’s hard on your body when there’s something going on that makes it harder for you.

2. How can those around you best support you?

I think the best way my friends and family can support me is to just listen when I want to be negative or I’m feeling down. I wish that they could understand that this is hard for me, not only because I’m going through this, but because I know that everyone else in my life is going through this with me.

3. What's the hardest thing about living with CF?

When I was a teenager and healthy and really learning about my disease, I knew there was a good chance I was going to become sicker and my body would get weaker and that life was going to get harder for me. I always knew it was just a matter of time. Now that I’m here I feel like there was more I could’ve done to stay healthier longer. But honestly, the hardest thing about having any kind of chronic illness or lifelong disease is maintaining that balance of normalcy you want so badly.

4. When did you first realize your life would be different than those without CF?

The first time I realized my life was going to be different was in middle school.

When you really start going through puberty and making new friends and everyone’s getting into sports and clubs. I realized many things that were hard for me to accept: 1) Because I had such a hard time gaining weight and growing in all the right places keeping up with all the other girls around me I knew I was going to be hard on myself about the way I looked for a long time. 2) I knew I would never do any kind of sports because I just wouldn’t be able to keep up with everyone and I didn’t want any coaches giving my special treatment. 3) I'd have to get used to having sleepovers and hanging out with friends and having to bring along my breathing treatment machines, my medications, and all my pills with me. I’d have to start telling my friends what was wrong with me, too.

5. Have you lived a different life than you would have without CF? How have you lived differently, if yes?

Although I’ve had a good life so far and there are not too many things I regret doing. I still think I’ve lived too carefully and let my insecurities about my disease hold me back too many times. I think if I didn’t have CF I’d have done high school differently for sure, but I think we all would have knowing what we know now in the real world.

6. How do you maintain a positive attitude about your diagnosis?

I am positive about my disease because I have to be, being sad and angry all the time isn’t going to make me better. In fact, that’s just going to make it harder for me to see that on the other side of this..after the oxygen tanks, and the leave of absence from work, and being trapped at home for several weeks...after the hospital visits that felt incredibly lonely and all the pains and aches and pills and the weekly doctor appointments.

I may actually get a new pair of lungs and I will get to live freely once again and do all the things I’ve been waiting to be healthy for. My lungs won’t have the disease anymore and even though I never wanted to be in this place, I’m here and now I have an opportunity to live a better life. I stay positive because no one ever gets anything truly amazing done by being negative.

7. What is your main goal in life?

My main goal in life is to just be happy and know while I’m living this life that I am happy. I want to enjoy the simple things and the incredible ones. I want to live long enough to help people, however I can. I want to give back to my family. I want to expand my thinking and observe other cultures. I just don’t want to look back at the end of it and wonder if I could have fought harder to be happier.

*Cystic Fibrosis has very serious consequences and Bri is currently facing the possibility of a lung transplant. For more on Bri's story and to help, you can find her gofundme here.

Cover Image Credit: Brianna Settlemyer

Popular Right Now

An Open Letter To The Girl Trying To Get Healthy Again

"I see you eating whatever you want and not exercising" - Pants

Dear girl trying to get back in shape,

I know it's hard. I know the hardest thing you may do all day is walk into the gym. I know how easy it is to want to give up and go eat Chicken McNuggets, but don't do it. I know it feels like you work so hard and get no where. I know how frustrating it is to see that person across the table from you eat a Big Mac every day while you eat your carrots and still be half of your size. I know that awful feeling where you don't want to go to the gym because you know how out of shape you are. Trust me, I know.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Trying To Lose Weight In College

The important thing is you are doing something about it. I'm sure you get mad at yourself for letting your body get this out of shape, but life happens. You have made a huge accomplishment by not having a soda in over a month, and those small changes are huge. I understand how hard it is, I understand how frustrating it is to not see results and I understand why you want to give up. Being healthy and fit takes so much time. As much as I wish you could wake up the day after a good workout with the 6 pack of your dreams, that just isn't the reality. If being healthy was easy, everyone would do it, and it wouldn't feel so good when you got there.

Remember how last January your resolution was to get back in the gym and get healthy again? Think about how incredible you would look right now if you would have stuck with it. The great thing is that you can start any time, and you can prove yourself wrong.

Tired of starting over? Then don't give up.

You are only as strong as your mind. You will get there one day. Just be patient and keep working.

Nothing worth having comes easy. If you want abs more than anything, and one day you woke up with them, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as watching your body get stronger.

Mental toughness is half the battle. If you think you are strong, and believe you are strong, you will be strong. Soon, when you look back on the struggle and these hard days, you will be so thankful you didn't give up.

Don't forget that weight is just a number. What is really important is how you feel, and that you like how you look. But girl, shout out to you for working on loving your body, because that shit is hard.

To the girl trying to get healthy again, I am so proud of you. It won't be easy, it will take time. But keep working out, eating right, and just be patient. You will be amazed with what your body is capable of doing.

Cover Image Credit: Stock Snap

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

4 Best Ways To Deal With The Ear Infection Pain Caused By Strep Throat

The pain will make you cry, I promise.


I have recently, like one day ago, gotten diagnosed with strep throat. Which you would think would mean that my throat would be killing me, right? But no, my friends, it is my ears that are killing me.

Apparently, due to the sinuses built up, your ears hurt a ridiculous amount. No seriously, this is the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I mean like crying as if you're a baby and all you can think about is getting the pain to stop. Also, forget sleep, that won't happen if you're in pain.

Well, these are a few of the things that helped me while I was in the middle of this insane period of just wanting it all to end.

1. Sit up in bed. 

Duncan Shaffer

When you are in bed trying to sleep and your right ear, the traitor, decides to act up, it's time to sit up.

I don't know if it's because shit drains or what. Frankly, when you're in so much pain you're considering taking another pain pill, you won't either. Why it works doesn't matter. Sit up as straight as you can and breathe. Slouching won't work - you have to be sitting up straight.

2. Stretch your neck. 

Tanja Heffner

This is just like number one in which I don't know why it works or how it makes things feel better, but it's a miracle worker. I went from crying in pain to being able to finally sleep thanks to this trick. It's the best thing I can think of giving you for almost instant relief.

It won't be the fastest thing ever and it will cause you some discomfort, but the end result is the light at the end of a tunnel. It's how I managed to get an hour of sleep because somehow it was finally better.

3. Wash your hands. 


Strep throat is one of the most contagious diseases ever. Okay, I'll stop being dramatic for a second. It's probably not, but it is super easy to catch and super annoying to deal with.

Wash your hands and make sure to not touch anything someone else will, or he or she may catch it. Or even worse, you get better only to get sick again because someone else didn't clean the surfaces touched while sick.

4. Go to the clinic. 


Seriously, it's on campus and super easy to use. I got to see a medical professional on the same day I walked in. The process was super easy, and I managed to get everything I needed taken care of.

I signed a few forms and got to see a very nice doctor who also told me about many of the other things UCF Health Services offers. She prescribed me some pills I had to take and it was all over in a matter of minutes. I even picked up the prescription downstairs without giving them my name!

I hope this helps anyone who is in pain and desperately needs some relief. Strep throat is the worst and I feel bad for anyone caught in the middle of it. I am with you. Hopefully, our pain eases soon.

Related Content

Facebook Comments