It is my hope that by sharing my story that I can help others who are, or may be, in a similar situation. Being a Spouse to a individual with CF is not easy, CF is an isolating disease for all involved. There really is such a void when it comes to resources and support for spouses with CF. I hope as I share my story it will illustrate to others that you can take a tragedy and try to make something positive come out of it.
The ensuing days and months after Ashley passed away were incredibly difficult and still are almost two years later, but I knew that I wanted to become active in the CF community and help in any way that I could. CF spouses are in a unique situation, and I think they can benefit from hearing about the experience of others like myself – it certainly would have been a great help to me if I had had it. Being as informed as possible about CF in general and being active in the management of your spouse’s health is incredibly important, something that I learned unfortunately a bit too late.
The one big regret that I have is that, while I was learning more about CF, I wish I had asked some of those important health questions sooner and pushed a little more. However, at the time I knew that Ashley knew more about CF than I did, and I always thought she’d be ok. I tried not to press her too much, perhaps I was also a bit afraid of knowing the answers to certain questions I had especially as I saw her begin to struggle a bit more. While it’s a regret I have, it’s also something I’ve learned to let go as unfortunately there is nothing I can do aside from sharing my experiences with others in hopes it can help someone else someday. I've fought hard to move forward with my life, as I know she'd want me to, and also knowing she'll be with me always, forever.
If you are reading this and are in a similar situation, I implore you to be persistent and ask those questions. Get involved. Ashley was forthcoming with me and had even agreed to allow me to come with her to future doctor’s appointments, but I think she had always felt like CF was her problem and wanted to deal with it herself, which meant refusing to let it govern her life or her relationships... that’s the type of remarkable person she was. As a partner of someone with CF, it’s incredibly important to be involved in the treatment process and to get informed as much as possible. And if you’re someone with CF, let your partner in and allow them to help. We want to support as much, and as best we can. Teamwork is vital to keeping everyone as healthy as possible.
Staying involved in the Cystic Fibrosis community was also very important to me after Ashley’s passing, despite how difficult it was. I learned that people with CF have to deal with a lot of challenges on a daily basis. It was Ashley’s perseverance and zest for life that sparked something in me to help and do more. So together with Ashley’s family’s we started a non-profit organization called the Breathe for Bea Foundation.
Our mission is to help make the lives of individuals and their families that are battling this life threatening disease more manageable by providing financial assistance and support, as well scholarships in her memory. We also provide hospital care packages to CF patients who have been admitted into the hospital for an extended stay and are hoping to also provide resources and tips based on our experiences. We hope that we can be a support to the CF population.
Putting my time and energy into this Foundation really helped me through the grieving process. It allowed me to try and turn an event that was so incredibly heartbreaking, into something positive, by helping others with CF. Hearing from the people who we have helped thus far is incredibly rewarding, and I know Ashley would be so proud of what we are doing. It will never make up for her loss, but it’s fulfilling to know that we can help others who have also been affected by this terrible disease.