Tim Wotton has lived with the chronic lung condition cystic fibrosis (CF) for over 51 years. He also manages CF-related type 1 diabetes.
When diagnosed with CF, Tim was not expected to live beyond 17 years of age. He's delighted to say he's now 34 years beyond his life expectancy.
Tim's powerful and positive mind-set shines on the page. He hopes this article will help make a difference to anyone living with CF today.
As I was expected to live no longer than 17, I've spent much of my life defying the odds. This has come with some tough life lessons. I've had to show constant determination and bravery to endure something incurable.
My life often feels like a giant hourglass with grains of sand running out rapidly.
To reach 51, I’ve needed unstinting commitment to my medication, regular exercise and belief in the power of the mind. That’s three rules I must follow every day:
- Medical adherence
- Regular exercise
- Positive mental attitude (PMA)
1. Medical adherence
I've never had a day off from my treatment. Every day consists of a two-hour medical regime involving:
- Taking 40 tablets (yes, every day!)
- Using various inhalers and nebulizers
But I soon realised staying healthy doesn't mean just taking my medication. It requires an absolute mental commitment to keeping well. I have to be in the mind-set where I WANT to take my meds and be healthy. Otherwise, decades of adhering to this strict regime would have taken a terrible mental toll.
Having this mind-set has made a huge difference to me.
The daily burden of multiple medicines is harsh, especially when it only provides a level of health most "normal" people would reject outright. My best days are akin to the worst days for my healthy peers.
It's also essential to quickly develop habits around taking your medicine. What you need to take and when you need to take it should be ingrained into your consciousness. Don't wait for friends and family to nag you or remind you what medicine to take. Adhere to your treatment even when no one is watching.
In the long run, it's better to own the responsibility for your medication routine. My mantra is, "I'm only as healthy as my last treatment."
2. Regular exercise
I give my lungs as hard a time as they give me. Regular exercise is necessary to keep my lungs "tuned" and me feeling healthier than anyone would expect. Any activity that exercises the lungs of someone with CF is hugely beneficial.
In fact, I see exercise as a line of treatment in itself.
Exercise has massively helped my longevity in the battle against CF. I have always played field hockey and was a Junior International player. I had the talent, but cystic fibrosis hindered my fitness, which stopped me from making it to an elite level.
That didn't stop me from playing competitive hockey for most of my life. These days, I play in a London Development League, and my son plays in the same team. That, in particular, fills me with so much pride.
I complement my hockey with weight training and running twice a week in the gym. And a daily walk never goes amiss!
Exercise has the added mental benefit of making me feel like I'm conducting a relatively typical life. When I'm at the gym or playing hockey, I'm keeping up with my healthy peers. By forcing myself to breathe hard while exercising, I breathe extra vitality into my body and lungs.
3. Positive mental attitude (PMA)
Battling the odds for over 50 years does take it out of me mentally. Struggling to remain upbeat sometimes is only natural. Sadly, along the way, I've lost many of my friends who also had a CF diagnosis. Each of their deaths has taken a piece of me with them.
But the latter part of this "Power of Three" has been a slow burner. I was diagnosed with CF-related diabetes 15 years ago. Until then - I was in my late 30s - I hadn't realised how essential my mind-set was to survival.
When I received my diabetes diagnosis, I knew I needed to transform my game plan. I had to deal with the negative thoughts trying to drag me down.
Eventually, I understood that "the most important person I'll ever speak to is myself." This realisation was eye-opening enough for me to begin my journey of self-discovery and resilience.
I decided to improve my mental well-being in manageable increments of 1% at a time. I practised meditation and mindfulness, relishing the "power of being present" while out in nature.
The quality of my thoughts determines the quality of my life. After spending a lifetime battling a persistent illness, I decided to be just as relentless right back. Yes, my condition has shaken me daily in one way or another. But I'm still not stirred!
I choose to be my own health coach. I start every morning with a mental "reset". I wake up and tell myself what I'll do and achieve that day despite my illnesses.
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The Power of Three
As important as all these separate elements are to my survival, I need all three to survive. If I had just one or two of the "Power of Three" in place, that would not be enough. Without them, I'm convinced I would have died long ago.
Like giant cogs, each element helps the other. They're all interlocked and turning together, like a machine that needs constant care to work as well as it does. I mustn't stray from my medication regime, as it gives me the fitness and strength to exercise.
In turn, regular, lung-boosting exercise transforms my mind as much as my body. I stop feeling like I’m “surviving” and like I’m truly living. That’s the Power of Three!
NPS-IE-NP-00616 November 2022