REAL 65 : Befriending a Butterfly with CF
Real 65 is a segment of Breathe 3-65 that is dedicated to entries and interviews sharing honest and personal experiences of living with, treating, and loving someone with Cystic Fibrosis.
It is a place for all those impacted to share their stories.
It is a great privilege to introduce the first entry for Real 65 written by Paige Pearson Meyer. She is a dear friend of Ashley's and is an integral part of the nonprofit, Breathe Bravely. Learn how her life was touched by CF and what it is like to be a friend of someone living with CF.
I remember where I was and the very first thing she said to me. With a smile like a brand-new Phillips bulb, lighting up her whole body, she bounded up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Ashley! And, I just think you’re fabulous on the news!” While flattered, her words were different. They weren’t hollow with recognition. I could feel she meant what she said.
Three and a half years later, I’m honored to call Ashley Ballou-Bonnema my friend. I look back on our first meeting so fondly, and yet I couldn’t have imagined the richness our friendship would bring to my life. I didn’t know Ashley was living with Cystic Fibrosis. Quite honestly, I knew very little about CF and its vast effect. I didn’t know how it gets its pirate-like hooks into those with the disease, making it difficult to breathe and forming cysts on the pancreas. I didn’t know that so many people are carriers, nearly 1 in 31. I didn’t know about the unbelievable cost of trying to treat the disease. There was so much I didn’t know.
To my great fortune, Ashley was going through a metamorphosis when I met her. For years, she’d wrapped herself up in a tight cocoon, letting few people know about her life with CF. She found her wings by blogging about her experiences. Those blog posts helped open a dialogue between Ashley and me. Curious by nature, I quickly learned that my many questions would be met by self-deprecation. Ashley is quick as a whip, always inserting humor into conversation. She’s also extremely talented at deflecting, shifting the conversation back to something that’s going on in your life. But, I’ve learned that her humor and deflection are often veils to what’s really going on. I’ve learned that the many years of physically battling CF have been just as taxing mentally.
You see CF is devious. In one breath, Ashley’s beautiful soprano voice is clear and captivating. Her spirits are soaring as she shares her gift with the world. In the next breath, Ashley’s core is shaken, trying to fight off another life-threatening infection. Ashley often talks about the seasons and how CF has its seasons too. It’s so amazing to witness, but even on the days her body quakes from thunderous coughing spells, Ashley is grateful. She’s grateful for life. She’s grateful for her adoring husband, her supportive family, and her incredible friends. She’s grateful for the seasons.
Yes, I’ve learned about CF. My education includes things I wish didn’t know. But, what I’ve learned about my friend often causes me to shake my head and smile. Ashley is fearless and courageous. She’s warm and witty. She’s also the most grateful person I’ve ever met.
- About today's contributor -
A journalist at heart, Paige Pearson Meyer is a wife, mother, and ardent supporter of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Paige is also the Communications & Recruitment Manager at DocuTAP. Paige is blessed to serve on the Breathe Bravely board, helping to bring awareness to Cystic Fibrosis.
Learn more about Breathe Bravely's founder, Ashley, and her personal journey with Cystic Fibrosis - A Brave Beginning.