Image Credit: Photo by Tim Wotton
Cystic fibrosis patient Tim Wotton playing hockey for his London development league

3 Daily Habits that Help Me Manage Cystic Fibrosis

Reading time | 6 mins
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.

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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 an 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 have never had a day off from treatment. Every day consists of a two-hour medical regimen involving:

  • Taking 40 tablets (yes, every day!)
  • Using various inhalers and nebulizers
  • Injections
  • Physiotherapy

But I soon realized 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 regimen 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 the result is health that 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, owning responsibility for your medication routine is better. 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 healthier than anyone would expect. Any activity that exercises the lungs of someone with CF is hugely beneficial.

In fact, exercise is a line of treatment in itself.

Exercise has been a massive help 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.

Cystic fibrosis patient Tim Wotton and his son, Felix, playing hockey together. Photo by Tim Wotton.
Cystic fibrosis patient Tim Wotton and his son, Felix, playing hockey together. Photo by Tim Wotton.

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. I'm keeping up with my healthy peers when I'm at the gym or playing hockey. 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 realized how essential my mind-set was to survival.

Tim and his family enjoy a holiday in Lanzarote – without breaking his cystic fibrosis treatment regime. Photo by Tim Wotton.
Tim and his family enjoy a holiday in Lanzarote – without breaking his cystic fibrosis treatment regime. Photo by Tim Wotton.

When I received my diabetes diagnosis, I knew I needed to transform my game plan. Dealing with all these negative thoughts was proving an uphill battle.

Eventually, I understood that "the most important person I'll ever speak to is myself." This was eye-opening enough to begin my journey of self-discovery, resilience, and mindfulness.

I decided to improve my mental well-being in manageable increments of 1%. I practiced 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 with my health, I decided to be just as relentless as my illness. Yes, my condition "shakes" 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 by telling myself what I'll achieve despite my illnesses.

The Power of Three

Medical adherence, a positive mental attitude, and regular exercise are essential in their own right. Still, all three must work together for me to survive. Without these, I'm convinced I would have died long ago.

Like giant cogs, each one 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 must stay within my medication regimen, as it gives me the fitness and strength to exercise.

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!

Note: The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for managing cystic fibrosis. Please consult with a professional who can apply best practices and appropriate resources to your situation.

NPS-IE-NP-00738 NOVEMBER 2022