Hearing you say that you would still want to live this life of cystic fibrosis – instead of not living at all – gives me hope.
-Mom of two CFers
On a weekend trip to Louisiana for a speaking engagement in 2014, the topic turned to cystic fibrosis and abortion. Not on purpose, but by chance. Or maybe…by design.
This is a hard article to write; a hard truth to share. Yet after several conversations and as my fingers type these words, I’m hit with the overwhelming responsibility to speak life, hope, and truth into a topic that is highly ridiculed and overtly controversial. I’d much rather be writing to you about how to overcome and be beautifully whole or how to grow a deeper faith.
But this matters.
It matters to those who have made the choice to abort, and it matters to you if you find yourself in that devastating spot of “what now?
What happens now that I’ve learned my child has CF and I haven’t yet held her in my arms? Haven’t felt his fingers around mine? How do I protect him from something like cystic fibrosis?”
This article matters to you, dear parent. I can’t imagine what you must be going through in this moment…the fears that must be haunting you and the overwhelming sense of guilt that you might feel about the entire situation. You certainly never dreamed that you would be faced with these choices. So just so it’s clear, I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to offer perspective…and hope.
My name is Mandy B. Anderson and I was born with cystic fibrosis. I am thirty-four-years-old, an age that my parents were told I would never reach. Time goes by so fast, and yet even with this disease, I don’t feel as though my time is running out. There’s so much life left to live and I want to experience it all. Every moment.
My parents were told that it would be a miracle if I graduated from high school. Well, God had other plans. And I’m not even sure if you believe in God, but in this moment, I’m sure you have lots of questions; lots of fears. So I’m not going to hide. You need the truth. Not just the statistics.
Before I continue, I want to address the precious heart that has felt the pain of choosing abortion for any reason, but especially because of cystic fibrosis. To the mommies like Addie Morfoot, I pray that you can find it in your heart to forgive yourself and release the guilt. Your child forgives you…and if you need someone to stand in that gap on behalf of your child, then let me be that person to lovingly say that I forgive you. I pray that someday soon you’ll be able to forgive you, and that you’ll draw near to a God who will forgive you too if you ask Him.
You made what you believed was the best decision. But in those moments where you are haunted by raw emotions – every Mother’s Day, every unmarked birthday on the calendar that lingers in your mind, every time your friends’ kids give you a hug or you hear a child giggle – in those moments when your emotions rise up and you miss your precious baby, I pray that you choose forgiveness. Always choose forgiveness.
I know the pain of losing a child you never got to hold because I had a very early miscarriage. And while they aren’t the same cause of loss, the hollow ache that never really goes away when your arms are empty of the baby you love so much…that’s a pain I wouldn’t wish upon anyone; I wouldn’t choose that. CF is manageable; however, that hollow emptiness can devour you. So embrace forgiveness.
My life with cystic fibrosis has been a beautiful, delicate journey.
Yes, I’ve spent time in the hospital…moments of being lonely at night while hooked up to an IV in a sterile room. But I’ve also laughed a lot in the hospital. I’ve laughed a lot period! I’ve met friends I wouldn’t have known. I’ve learned the precious gift of being able to encourage a nurse who has had a hard day, and I’ve had the honor of walking a beautiful journey that brought me to the brink of death. Literally.
Being admitted into a hospital with 22% lung functions is a challenge, yes. It’s also a gift. It helps you learn the value of life. And if I’d have had to live my entire life with only 22% lung functions, struggling to breathe, I’d still want to live it. I’d still want the chance to love my parents, meet them, get to know them, feel their warmth and comfort, and experience this beautiful world that God created. Because life is always worth living.
Fortunately, that’s not my whole story. I lived the majority of my life as one of the healthiest CF patients in my state. My parents are responsible for that. They worked hard, they prayed hard, they made tough choices. And they’re not broke. They’re not struggling. I’m not broke. I’m not struggling. In fact, my husband and I have even paid off over $160,000 of debt even while paying off medical bills! It’s not impossible to live life with this disease. It’s not even a struggle – IF you choose to see it that way.
I’m 34 and I’ve been married to an amazing man for 14 years. I’m a singer. An author. A speaker. A life coach. A business owner. I live a very busy life helping others grow into the people that God designed them to be. I make time for my health. Every morning I wake up and do a twenty minute treatment. It’s not time consuming to me – it’s refreshing. It’s my “me time.” I do it again at night, and sometimes when I’m sick I throw in an extra one. I go to doctor appointments every few months. I take pills every time I eat. I’ve learned to eat healthier and I work out with a trainer so my immune system is stronger and now I don’t get sick as often. Rarely, do I get sick really.
I am the co-founder of a life coaching company, not because I couldn’t find a job, but because this is what I’ve been called to do. In fact, I travel the country to speak at events and I host a weekly podcast with my business partner on top of working with coaching clients. I do all of this while thriving with cystic fibrosis. It’s not impossible – I’m living proof of it! As of today – September 14, 2016 – my lung functions are at 78% and the doctors are astounded at my recovery after the one time in my life when I hit rock bottom. Oh, I’ve also experienced losing my home from a fire and to be perfectly honest with you, that was more devastating than CF has ever been!
Many people believe that abortion is a right, a choice, an answer to a problem. I’m glad my mom and dad didn’t see it that way. I’m glad they chose to experience this life with me, regardless of how hard it may have been for them. I’m so thankful for the chance to live.
Today you find yourself at a crossroad: “Do I risk my child living a life of cystic fibrosis? Am I strong enough to take care of her? Am I emotionally able to handle the what if’s?”
I believe you are.
But more than that, I believe you’ve been divinely placed as this child’s parent because there is something precious that you will both experience as you groom this baby into a capable, responsible, and caring adult. As you raise this child, she will teach you perseverance. She will astound you with her courage. Your heart will swell as you watch your hero overcome the odds! This child doesn’t have to be an aching memory for you. You can choose to help this child live a full life, just like you would do for a normal “healthy” child.
So today, I urge you…
Choose forgiveness when you’ve made the heartbreaking choice.
Choose to be brave when you can’t see the next step.
Choose life and hold that precious baby in your arms, reassuring her that she matters, no matter what.
~Mandy B. Anderson