A note from Jerry:
Em and I made it to Boston today but have a jam packed schedule. I’ll be back with updates tomorrow, but in the meantime, my friend Gunnar Esiason wanted to check in.
Jerry Cahill and Emily Schaller’s bike ride is no small feat. This year’s Bike to Breathe event covers an extraordinary 500 miles. For the average person that is more than a challenge. For someone with cystic fibrosis, it could have called unimaginable a short 25 years ago.
Throughout their ride, both Jerry and Em, as Emily likes to be called, will be preforming at their very best. As onlookers, we watch and cheer them on as they ride past us with their Team Boomer caravan in tow. Beyond the ride, there is more than meets the eye, though. Hidden behind the pavement are the hours of physical care. A person with CF is expected to maintain the highest level of medical alertness and compliance to a rigorous treatment routine. The average patient will spend an hour and a half in the morning plus another hour and a half in the evening taking care of his or her lungs with aerosolized steroids, bronchodilators and antibiotics. These medications are designed for a few tasks, to clear and thin out any mucus blocking the airways. There is also vibrating vest that the patients wear during these treatment sessions that very violently shake the lungs making it much easier for people like Jerry (prior to transplant), Emily and I to cough up mucus.
Aside from the daily 3+ hours of treatments, people with CF take an enormous number of pills throughout the day. These pills range vitamins, to pancreatic enzymes, to natural supplements, all the way to different antibiotics. Many of these pills are time sensitive and cannot be forgotten.
If that’s not enough, most of us are told to take in as much as four to five thousand calories per day to meet our caloric needs. Because there is excess mucus build up, a CF patient’s lungs, our lungs, often harbor some of the world’s deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Our bodies are taxed day in and day out with the ever-present fight against these bugs, as we like to call them. The amount of energy we spend dealing with this problem, without any athletic activity, is already enormous. Compound that with 60-80 miles on a bike per day, and we are talking Michael Phelps or J.J. Watt size diets.
From day one, people with CF are taught that every single thing that goes into care is a priority. We very quickly learn that complacency buys us a life worth living. If we overlook any task associated with our health, things can go bad very quickly.
There are no days off – we have never had a vacation day from our illness. Our fight our tiresome; it is tedious; our victories are often rewarded with another set of challenges; but we do whatever it takes to stay healthy – to stay alive. Jerry and Emily are both shining examples of what many people with cystic fibrosis strive for – a life that includes far more than the inside of a hospital room; more than hours spent sitting in a chair hooked up to a nebulizer or IV pole; more than the lonely path of chronic illness.
Where there is success, there is hope. Where there is hope, there is determination, resolve and resiliency in fighting against the only enemy a lot of us have ever known.