Tips for Airway Clearance and Strong Lungs

COVID-19 is here and in some ways, it seems to me like the rest of the world just woke up one day to the life of a Cystic Fibrosis Patient. Suddenly all human beings have to learn how to live their lives with a six foot rule, being super germ-aware, and managing the mental and emotional toll of what is now known as social distancing. These realities are not new to those of us in the CF Community. We have been living them for decades now and when this is over, we will still have to live them. Rather than complain about this, I want to share some insight on how I manage life with this disease.

Here are some of my top tips of how to clear your airways and keep your lungs strong.


AIRWAY CLEARANCE:

Back in the day, my parents had to pound me while I did my breathing treatments. That sounds a bit abusive, but there’s no other way to describe it. The video above will help you see the examples of having someone pound your chest, back, and sides to help move mucus out of your lungs. It’s a bit tricky to explain, so the visual will help.

If you don’t have someone living with you that can help with this, you can also do what is called “a huff.” The video shows an example of this too.

Also – do not sleep flat when you have congestion. Sleep in an elevated position with a few pillows behind you. I have found that this helps me sleep in a more comfortable position when I am battling a cold or the flu and I struggle to breathe. You may even find that your ribs are out of place from coughing sometimes and my tip for this is to have heat packs on your back or side to help ease the discomfort so you can rest better.

NUTRITION TIPS:

What we feed our bodies matters. These are my top tips to keep my lungs strong and clear from a nutritional standpoint.

No Dairy, especially dairy milk. Dairy creates more mucus, so at the very least, stop drinking dairy milk and use an alternative like almond milk or coconut milk. Also, limit your cheese intake.

Spinach – it helps your immune system and keeps your lungs strong. Eat a lot of it.

Garlic and onions – these are both good for your immune system and are natural expectorants because they thin out secretions.

Drink plenty of water. At least half your body weight in ounces every day. I usually drink 4-6 liters of water a day and feel at my best when I do that.

Drink Tea. Tea with lemon and honey is a soothing tea that is also good for when you have congestion. Peppermint tea can help too.

Keeping your immune system strong is one way to help your lungs stay strong, but let’s not ignore exercise. Cardio workouts help too. If you can’t run or ride bike, at the very least get yourself outside for a walk. Twenty minutes of walking is better than nothing. And cardio PLUS weight training is great together. Weight training can help build your lung capacity better than cardio sometimes so do what you can and start now.

All of these quick tips are very helpful and can make a difference. Start now so you are ready and prepared if and when sickness arrives at your front door.

Be blessed, be healthy, and be inspired,
~Mandy


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Embracing the Box of Cystic Fibrosis

“You gotta stop putting me in this box of cystic fibrosis!” I said forcefully while choking back tears.

“Mandy, you’re already IN that box! I’m not the one putting you there. But you’re there and you’ve got to be realistic about it,” my friend said back with equal levels of force. There was, however, an underlying tone of care and maybe a smidge of compassion in his voice that made me lean in and face what he was saying. I’ve known this friend for two decades and this topic has never been breached before, only tiptoed around. What he said struck a nerve; a deep one.

Quick warning: this is more of a Thursday Thought kind of post instead of a Monday Motivation. There’s a healthy amount of rambling here because I’m basically coaching MY OWN DAMN SELF – and you get to read it because sometimes this is the rawest form of vulnerability that I can share. Unedited words from my own journal as I process my life…

I never wanted to be in the box of Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

In fact I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I have CF but I don’t let it have me. This conversation made me realize something: I’ve been trying to keep CF at arms length. Which is tricky because, well, it lives inside me.

We’ve had a delicate dance, CF and I. There’s the years where I was compliant and basically the poster child of what being a healthy, responsible CF adult looks like. And then there were the years where I tried to pray it away and believed God for a supernatural healing of this incurable disease. I walked that out by throwing away my meds and not doing treatments for about two years. Spoiler alert! It didn’t end well. There’s a ton of things I can say about that whole experience – and I have actually, in chapter eight of my book. I think I’ve spent the last seven years just coming to terms with what happened during those years and who am I really…and that brings me to today.

The conversation with my friend happened earlier this afternoon, on March 13, 2019. That’s significant to me because it was on March 13, 2010 that I threw away my medicine and decided to walk by faith, believing God for a supernatural healing of this disease. I don’t think this is a coincidence…

Today is the day that I fully realized that I’m IN the box of cystic fibrosis and I will never be outside of it. No matter how hard I try. And here I’ve been trying to have one foot in and one foot out. Yes, I’m overcoming CF, but don’t you dare use it to define me. Don’t look at me like I’m sick or treat me like I’m a victim or remind me of what I go through every day and how I should be careful. And for goodness sake, let’s only talk about it when I feel like it! That’s kind of been my internal battle since as long as I can remember. And I honestly feel a bit like the fool right now because, well, I think it’s been clear to everyone but me.

I’ve been keeping CF at arms length. And today I’m choosing to stop that. I am putting both feet in the box of cystic fibrosis and standing firm and strong in it for maybe the first time ever. I’m choosing to do the one thing I’ve never been willing to do wholeheartedly – play the CF game.

“You win Cystic Fibrosis! YOU WIN!” She screams while looking up to the sky and spreading her arms wide while twirling.

Maybe this is why I love The Hunger Games? The reason I am drawn to the heroin stories where she rises up and leads the battle that she never wanted to be in. Maybe this is why I haven’t fully succeeded in my big dreams…yet. I’ve been trying to write my own rules to a game that is already pretty strict: the cards are dealt. Play those cards and make the best of it. May the odds be ever in your favor.

I’m in the box of cystic fibrosis. Nobody put me here. It’s just the way the cards were dealt for me. The odds have never been in my favor; but I’ve beaten the odds a few times already. So now what? Am I going to suddenly become pessimistic and live my life by fear and statistics? No. I’m still going to do my best and shine bright as an example of what it means to overcome something you had no choice in.

But here’s where it changes: I’m going to be more visible in the CF community online by sharing MORE of my life – the good AND the bad – with the people I hang out with online. I’m going to lean in and get more involved in the CF Community. I will start making new CF friends again, even if I’m afraid I’ll have to face the pain of losing them again. And I’m going to stop avoiding the harder questions.

Instead, I’m going to play to win and ask MYSELF the hard questions so I can learn, grow, and get stronger.

Questions like:

  • What’s realistic and what’s not and where do I want to fit within the possibilities?
  • How long do I hope to be able to actually work?
  • When would I maybe like to retire?
  • What do I need to be prepared for that I might not see coming?
  • And what about the fact that I’ve never asked myself these questions before actually bothers me?

I’ll tell you the answer to that last one. It bothers me that I’ve never stopped to prepare for the future financially like an adult should. And why haven’t I? Because in the box of cystic fibrosis that future is kind of like a pie in the sky kind of thing. It’s abstract. Yes, medical technology has improved immensely but I don’t actually know any seventy-year-old CFers living on their retirement funds right now. Do you? They might exist, but I don’t know them. And because I don’t know them and I have never wrestled with what a “realistic retirement age” might be, I’ve avoided the entire subject all together. Like a moron.

Another hard question as I prepare to step out into bigger arenas as a speaker, author, and a coach is this: what have I been afraid of and why haven’t I done this sooner?

The answer: I haven’t been willing to let my guard down with CF. I’ve been afraid of what I can handle and what I can’t. Up until the last year I just lived in that tension of doing nothing and thinking that time passing would fix it.

It doesn’t. If I’m going to test what I’m capable of, I’ve got to DO IT. And I have been for a year now. I’ve been testing my abilities physically by working out with a trainer, running further than I ever have before (or should be able to), and challenging myself to speak longer than I ever thought possible. And I’ve done it. There have been failures along the way but I’ve gotten back up each time and done it again and again.

But I’ve yet to wrap my mind around what it means to partner WITH CF instead of trying to run away from it.

So I’m done now. I’m partnering with it. CF is what has made me a fighter. It’s what has made me so passionate about being an overcomer. CF is not my foe – it’s my friend. Without it, I don’t really have a story. Trying to hide it and only talk about it from a stage when I’m paid to is quite frankly stupid and living a double standard that I didn’t even realize I was in.

I can’t tell people on a stage or in a coaching program that I’m an open book and then get offended or frustrated when someone catches me by surprise in the supermarket and asks super personal questions that I wasn’t ready for just because I don’t feel like it at the moment. People are desperate for HOPE; they are desperate to connect with someone who is rising above. I can’t be both thankful for the story of rising above CF and frustrated by the challenges it brings me. Pick a side Mandy!

I’m embracing the box of cystic fibrosis and honestly, it’s about damn time.

This is going to evolve over time, I’m sure. Embracing any box is always a process. For now, one of the first ways that I’m embracing the box of cystic fibrosis is this: I’m using my voice to speak up and speak out. The CF Box is filled with statistics and daily routines but I’m going to speak up and redefine this box as I push through to overcome my own limitations because of CF.

One way I’m doing this is by launching a brand new podcast! It’s called the She Who Overcomes Podcast and we will be sharing the first episodes next week. For now, just know that the first 13 episodes will be my story, read to you chapter-by-chapter from my book, She Who Overcomes: Rising Out of the Ashes of Your Circumstances. After that, we will grow together and get the word out about overcoming EVERY obstacle, not just CF. My vision for this podcast is to reach people around the world and help share their stories, too. I can’t do it alone, so I’m gonna need your help. Are you in? Because guess what? I’m all in.

All. In. You’ll hear more on the podcast. Until then, be encouraged to embrace your own box. In fact – let’s redefine ALL the boxes! Together.

Much love,

~Coach Mandy

How I Am Able to Speak Ten Hours in One Day with Cystic Fibrosis

Once upon a time, about a decade ago, I had a dream to be a motivational speaker and coach. Back then speaking in public was actually a HUGE fear for me, but I pushed past the fear and started practicing and eventually the fear left and I now LOVE speaking in public! I’m a driven person so I’ve got BIG goals of things I want to accomplish in the next decade; and I also have cystic fibrosis. This gets a bit tricky because my energy levels can sometimes get depleted just with basic every day life tasks, so it really is a big deal that I am able to speak ten hours in one day with cystic fibrosis!

Yes, it’s true. No, I’m not being dramatic or over exaggerating. Our Beautiful Wholeness event for women is a powerful, jam-packed day of personal and professional development and we go from 9:00 am until 9:00 pm and sometimes a few minutes past that if need be. We have breaks for lunch and dinner, but other than that, both Raychel and I are coaching and speaking together all day long for ten hours. It’s a RUSH! And each time we have done it over the last year, my energy and capacity to handle more, grows. So I thought I would take a quick moment to tell all my aspiring speaker friends my tips for how to speak for ten hours in one day with cystic fibrosis (or whatever other kind of health challenge you might have *wink*). You can watch a short video about it, here; however, I’m throwing in two extra tips in this post that you won’t find in the video, so let’s go!

Tip 1: Juice Plus+

This is my secret weapon for more energy and a stronger immune system! I’ve been eating Juice Plus+ for over a decade now and on days where I speak, I take two to three times the normal amount. It’s not a supplement – it’s real food! Quite simply it is fruits and vegetables that have been juiced and then dehydrated and put into a capsule.

Tip 2: Shakes

Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are my second secret weapon. I have one in the morning with me on stage, and then another one around 2:30 pm on stage again. When you speak for ten hours in one day with cystic fibrosis or without it, you need to keep your nutrition going! So don’t be vain and worry about what it will look like if you drink out of a shaker bottle or a water bottle on stage. Fuel your body in between meals! Trust me – you’ll be so glad you did because you won’t have headaches from not eating.

Tip 3: Extra Breathing Treatments

Living with cystic fibrosis requires me to take a breathing treatment in the morning and another one in the evening so my lungs can be clear and I can cough out the extra mucus that this silly disease creates. My secret though is this: on days where I speak for ten hours, I end up doing four treatments a day! That’s right. Every meal break…I take a treatment. It totally helps keep my energy levels up and I’m not coughing up a lung all day either. So, if you have different health challenges than I do, my advice is to do the things you are suppose to for regular maintenance and then do extras when long days arrive and if permitted by your doctors!

Tip 4: Heels in the morning, tennis shoes in the evening

It really doesn’t get more self explanatory than that. Ladies, if stilettos are your A-game shoe, then I’m going to advise you to pack a pair of tennis shoes for the evening. Trust me, your feet will thank you! (And your legs, your back, your mind, all of you really.)

Tip 5: Establish a Workout Routine

This seems obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway. Establish a workout routine BEFORE your big game, folks! Listen, Champions WIN in their every day training – not by chance in the ring. The things you do before hand will make or break your endurance on the day of a big speaking engagement whether that’s a ten hour gig or a one hour gig in front of thousands. You are worth it! And the people you will be pouring into – well, they deserve to have you at your BEST.

There’s my tips, Friends. I hope it helps and hey, if you’ve got more tips to help with public speaking, I’d love to hear them! Share your tips in the comments below and let’s all rise up as awesome speakers with more endurance than others know what to do with!

Much love,

~Coach Mandy

Monday Motivation: Your Atmosphere Matters

How’s the atmosphere in your home lately? I only ask because, well, I’ll explain it with a story…

About a month ago we decided we wanted to get a new couch. The only problem was that the couches we liked will only fit in our living room one way. So I suggested that we switch our current furniture around so that we could try it out. We’ve been living with a pretty open floor plan – in fact, we’ve always loved open feelings in our homes. Anyway, we moved the furniture around and it felt somewhat cozy. It was something new and while it cut up the room and made it smaller, something about it felt quaint and enchanting to me so I told myself I loved it and that was that.

Until it wasn’t. You guys, I woke up a few days ago and all I could think was, “Ick. I hate this setup!”

It’s like my brain couldn’t function in my home anymore. Cozy snuggling with my hubby felt off. My neck hurt all the time because out couch was too close to the tv now and we couldn’t change it because walls. My favorite chair wasn’t working either because it just felt off in its new place. It was weird! I’m a “Feeler” and it felt like a completely foreign space to me. I kept asking Nate if he liked the living room setup and his answer was always, “I’m not sure.”

So yesterday morning we switched it back. We decided to wait on getting a new couch and we put the room back the way it was before this crazy idea popped into our heads. And you know what happened?

Instantly the entire place felt calm again. It felt welcoming. It felt like home again.

So I’m asking you this question again: how’s the atmosphere in your home lately?

It matters, so pay attention. Little things such as color schemes and furniture placement can be the difference between a home that inspires you to fully live your dreams or a home that makes you feel dull and depressed!

Get motivated again by making one or two small changes to how your home looks and feels! Not even kidding. The moment the living room went back to how it was, I felt like I could breathe again. I didn’t even notice how caved in I felt in my own home until then.

Pay attention to what feeds your soul and what squashes you, and then make the necessary changes!

Much love,
~Coach Mandy