Poppy Penhaul Smith
Hey, my name is Poppy. I am currently taking a gap year. My favourite past times include various sports, art, music and generally most things fun! The reason I’m writing a blog is because I have Cystic Fibrosis and want to prove to people that you really can do anything, even if there are some pretty huge obstacles in the way!
For those of you that don't know, Cystic Fibrosis is a disease that attacks the digestive system and slowly shuts down the lungs. People with CF generally don’t look ill or diseased, you’d walk past us in the street and not think twice. CF isn’t contagious, it’s a genetic disorder which you can only inherit through your parents genes, but there is no cure. Or at least not yet.
CF mainly affects the lungs and digestive system. Inside everyone’s airways there’s a thin layer of mucus that catches anything you breathe in, like bacteria or dust. This protects your lungs. However in people with CF, this mucus is stickier than it should be and quite syrupy. This means bacteria can become trapped in the lungs, causing infections. Therefore we need a lot of physio to try to shift that mucus so we can breathe and we take a lot of antibiotics. The easiest way for you guys to understand this is probably next time you have a straw, try using it to breathe. This is how it feels normally for me to breath everyday. Or so I’ve been told!
In your digestive system, there are things called enzymes which break down your food so you can absorb all the nutrients, these are basically unable to be released in somebody with CF. So as a result we have to take enzymes in tablet form whenever we eat food.
What a lot of people don’t know about CF is that it can affect many other things in your body, such as your reproductive organs and your mind. CF has a huge mental impact and often causes mental health issues. Personally to deal with this my mother has always prioritised my mental health because generally physical problems can be treated more easily than mental ones. Therefore I voluntarily teach sailing, as volunteering has been proven to improve mental health and it gets me out sharing a sport that I love with other people.
As a result of all the complications of CF, I take about 30-40 tablets a day, use nebulisers and inhalers and I often have to have intravenous antibiotics. The current life expectancy of somebody with CF is about 40years old. Many people with CF have to have organ transplants later in life, the main two being liver and lung transplants.
I’m not just writing this blog to make you all feel bad for me and to gain sympathy because quite frankly I hate receiving sympathy! Once, when my mum and step-dad were being sympathetic about a grade I received for art which I wasn’t happy with, it resulted in me breaking a small shelf in the kitchen.....not on purpose may I add, it just happened because I hated all the sympathy! I’m writing this to encourage you all to live your life and not waste a second of it. Do what you love, even if it terrifies you! I don’t let my CF limit what I do, I love my crazy sports (even if the hospital don’t necessarily approve of all of them) and am excited to travel the world. Don’t focus on the bad things because if you only saw the bad then the world would look pretty bleak; always try to find the positives, as I do, for example thanks to my CF, I’m not going to get old and wrinkly skin! (Yes it’s alright to laugh at that...even if it is slightly dark humour)! As a wise Australian bloke once told me “a minute unhappy is a minute wasted”. So I’ve decided I’m not wasting a minute! I’m writing this to hopefully inspire some of you and give you an insight into what life with a chronic illness is like.
I feel that’s a lot about the actual disease and not about me and my travels but hopefully if you read my posts you’ll learn more about me, my adventures and how my CF affects my decisions and life. And at least now everyone has at least some idea of what I’ll be rambling on about! Although to be completely honest I have no clue what I’m actually going to be blogging about…so it’ll be a surprise to me as much as you!
So if you’re interested in finding out about my gap year adventures, I’d be honoured if you accompanied me, even if it is just in spirit...via the Internet!