Our Mental Health Week: Sam Guest

Sam Guest, Recruitment and Admissions Assistant in the School of Architecture, shares his experience of living with Cystic Fibrosis and the impact on his mental health.

Sam Guest

My name is Sam, I work within the School of Architecture, I have cystic fibrosis (CF) and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. I was diagnosed with CF at four weeks old and developed diabetes, as a result of CF, at the age of 16. CF and CF-related diabetes are invisible illnesses that affect the body from the inside.

CF can make you feel tired, less hungry than usual, causes difficulty with breathing and makes you susceptible to chest infections. When you have CF, you grow specific CF bugs inside your lungs that you can pass onto other people with CF, this is why we can't be in the same room as each other. The bugs inside the lungs feed off of high blood sugars, so it's crucial that the sugars are kept under control to avoid the CF bugs from multiplying, and causing more damage to the lungs.

A way in which with CF measure their health, is through weight and a lung function test. This test measures the lung capacity by how much air you can take in and blow out into a machine. Cystic fibrosis is a progressive illness, which means it gets worse over time. When all of this suddenly clicked with me (in my teenage years), the seriousness of my illness, I won't lie it made me scared for my future. When I was born, the average mortality rate was just 13!

I'm happy to say I'm now 32 and that's because every year new drugs and technology are invented that help to manage CF better. The knowledge of my illness, the advances in technology, and my friends and family help me mentally cope with CF.

If I didn't have caring and understanding family, and work colleagues whom I consider to be friends, I don't think I would have such a positive outlook on life. With regard to advances in technology, I also refer to the internet and social media platforms which help me to reach out to the CF community where I can talk to them as though I am stood there face to face.

I have set up an Instagram account to document my progress as well as raise awareness for CF, but also to connect with people with whom are in a similar situation to me. Sometimes social media can be seen as a destructive environment, however it has its positives of like minded people connecting and supporting each other. As well as CF stuff, I think it's healthy to post non CF stuff on there from time to time, so that I don't get consumed by CF and I can for a while feel 'normal'.