Hiking has become one of my favorite activities since my double-lung transplant four years ago. Before the transplant, hiking would have never been in my vocabulary.
Having cystic fibrosis meant breathing was a struggle, and I would get a bellyache of anxiety when people would ask me to go hiking with them. Sometimes I would say yes and then bail at the last minute. Other times, I would tell the truth — that hiking was too hard for me.
I didn’t realize all the activities that I avoided, or how much shame I carried. Not being able to hike was just a reminder that there was always one more thing I couldn’t do because of cystic fibrosis, one more thing that separated me from my peers, one more thing to remind me that I was different.
Before my transplant, I constantly thought about my breathing, and was always calculating how many steps I took before I would have to recover my breath, which looked like bending over with my hands on my knees practicing pursed-lip breathing. It also looked like coughing and spitting copious amounts of mucus, because any kind of exercise was airway clearance.