Constant sinus surgeries, breathing treatments, specialized diets, and countless amounts of pills to swallow make her everyday routine light up like a switchboard. For sophomore Caroline Craig, living with cystic fibrosis (CF) is her reality.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disorder affecting the exocrine glands. It causes the production of abnormally thick mucus, leading to the blockage of the pancreatic ducts, intestines, and bronchi, often resulting in respiratory infection. However, that’s just the Oxford definition. For those affected by the disease, it’s so much more than a textbook definition; it’s their life.
“The everyday obstacles I face as someone with CF are waking up earlier than everyone else to do my treatment, remembering to take my pills and making sure I do my nose rinses,” said Craig.
While Craig suffers from the hands of CF, she doesn’t let it affect her. She shows cattle at the county fair through FFA and 4H, participates in FFA CDEs and LDEs, takes on numerous demanding honors classes, and is a varsity cheerleader.
“When I tell people I cheer they’re kind of surprised. I guess they think there are restrictions, but I don’t really have any now,” said Craig. “This past cheer season I have been super healthy and missed only one football game because I was running a fever. However, my freshman year I was sick quite often. I missed several games and I was put in the hospital for an exacerbation.”
Along with a supportive family, Craig has many friends who have stuck by her side on her journey since day one.
“I’ve never met a more brave, care-free, live-in-the-moment type of person like Caroline. She doesn’t let CF get in the way of her life, and she doesn’t let it control her,” said sophomore Allee Fortson. “She’s the reason I want to work in the medical field one day. She inspires so many people by living her life without fear.”
The Craig family faces challenges each cold season, struggling to keep Caroline healthy when everybody and their mothers are sneezing and coughing into the vulnerable air. It is vital for victims of CF to stay healthy this time of year because of their weakened immune systems.
“CF is a terminal illness. There is no cure for it, just like most cancers are terminal,” said Craig. “In my house, treatments and medications are looked at as preventative maintenance. I work very hard to stay well. It’s never just a ‘cold’ with me. If I get a cold, it almost always leads to a lung or sinus infection.”
Craig’s doctors have put her on medication after medication. As for many people who have a life threatening disease like cystic fibrosis, it is very hard to find a medication that works for them.
“I have been very fortunate to receive medications to help with CF on a cellular level,” said Craig. “My current medication, Trikafta, has been the best therapy to date with patients that have my gene of cystic fibrosis. Since I started Trikafta, I have been able to gain a little weight instead of my weight being such a struggle.”
With about 70,000 people worldwide affected by cystic fibrosis, Caroline Craig is one of a kind. She plans to work in the medical field like her mother who is a radiologic technologist at Parkview Regional Hospital. In 1990, the life expectancy for CF was 29 years old. Now in 2020, the life expectancy is nearly 40 years, and with advancing medical technology, the number is expected to go up even more. People like Caroline are the reason we should always remember that a disease or condition may mean different, but definitely not less.
“Cystic fibrosis has taught me many things,” said junior Lilah Craig, Caroline’s sister. “However, my biggest take away from Caroline’s disease is to love always and never take your life for granted. You never know when you might not see someone again.”