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
Today's Breathe 3-65 is a special Q&A with a remarkable woman that is a part of the CF community. It was so much fun! It's so special to share the stories of people like Jen who are a part the CF community - sharing how they're using their own talents and passions to inspire those around them.
Question- Tell us a little bit about your story.
Answer - My name is Jen, I was diagnosed with CF at age 5, and I’ll be celebrating turning 37 in just a couple of months. I grew up in Casper WY but now live in Bellingham WA (right between Seattle & Vancouver BC). I’ll always be a Wyoming girl at heart, but absolutely love living in the Pacific Northwest.
When I was 2 my mom had heard about CF on the radio during a “kiss your kids” campaign and realized that my extra saltiness fit the description. She took me to a doctor and was told that she was just being a paranoid first time mom and that I was fine. Then a few years later at my pre-kindergarten appointment she mentioned my distended belly to the doctor (a different one) who had me tested for CF.
Q - How has CF influenced the person you are today & how you choose to actively live your life?
A - Growing up I was pretty embarrassed about having CF. Since I grew up in pre-social media days and lived in a small town, I was the only one that I knew that had it so I felt very different from the other kids. My CF is fairly mild, so I was always able to hide it and I really only told a few people that were close to me about it.
As I’ve gotten older and I’ve had to integrate more treatments into my routine, I’ve had to make “having CF” more of a part of my life. I am a lot more open about it now, and I don’t really mind telling people that I have it. I started with baby steps by blogging and posting under the name jigglyknits since it gave me some anonymity, but I’ve gotten to the point where I just assume everyone knows that I have CF since I share so much of it on social media now. I’ve also matured enough to realize that the more awareness there is about it, the more fundraising will be done, and a cure can be found.
I never really have, and still don’t, let having CF hold me back from anything. It might make some things more difficult, but not impossible. No matter how much planning and packing for a trip seems like it.
Q - Knitting clearly has become something special in your life - what role does it play in your life with CF? Where and why did you learn how to knit?
A - I’ve always loved making things. If it’s some sort of craft, I’ve tried it (or it’s on my list to try). My mom is the same way and was always doing different crafts when I was a kid. She taught me how to cross stitch, crochet, and knit. I didn’t really keep up with knitting, but about 7 years ago I decided that I wanted to give it another try, so I ended up re-teaching myself using videos on the internet. For me, knitting is very therapeutic. Maybe it’s because I have to focus and count while I’m doing it, but when my anxiety starts getting to be too much, I can pick up a project and it really helps to calm me down and get back into a better frame of mind. It’s also portable, so can be brought along to fill the time while waiting around at clinic!
Q - What is Jigglyknits & how has this turned into a passion project? How has knitting positively influenced your life and continued journey with CF?
A - Last year when my lung functions started to drop and I had to start doing regular Vest treatments, I was gathering up some knitting supplies to have something to do to pass the time. My husband was watching me and made a comment about how I should sell what I make and donate the money to the CF Foundation, and that I could call it jigglyknits (the name jigglyknits comes from the fact that we have always called the Vest my “jiggly vest”, because of how much it shakes my whole body). As I did my treatment that day I thought a lot about what he said and it just really struck a chord with me. If I was already going to be spending this time helping my health, why not use it to benefit others too?
It also really helps to hold me accountable to doing my treatments, since it gives me a tangible reason and goal to doing them. It’s really made me have to “own” having CF and take better care of myself. Social media is huge too. Through my jigglyknits instagram account I’ve been able to meet and interact with so many other people that have CF that it makes it all feel a little less isolating.
Q - Would you consider sharing your passion for knitting with others with CF and teach them how to knit? A CF knitters group? Jiggly Knitters?
A - When I was in the early planning stages for jigglyknits, I actually envisioned having a team of knitters with CF that made items while doing their treatments. Then with each item that someone bought, they would get a card with information about the person that made it. I don’t really know how to implement it, but I would love to be able to expand to that level.
Logistically, teaching people to knit over the computer might be challenging but I’m definitely open to the idea if there is anyone that would want to join me and be a jiggly knitter!
Q - How can people support your shop and purchase or order a Jiggly Knit item?
A - One of these days I’ll get my own website set up, but right now I am selling through etsy at www.jigglyknits.etsy.com.