The hardest thing to come out of my recent downturn in form – as it were – is the adaptation I’m having to make to the way I do things and the things I do.

Yesterday, my big bro took me out in the afternoon to catch the new Bond movie (which is fab, incidentally, if somewhat dumbed-down Hollywood in parts) in the Xscape Cineworld in town. The trouble is it’s about a 200-300 yard walk from car to screen, including going up a floor, which took me a long time to negotiate and a lot more energy than I was used to.

I’ve recently become accustomed to walking a lot slower than I used to, although I did go through a patch of setting off at marching pace for 10-15 yards before being pulled up by unhappy lungs protesting at the work rate. I’ve now learned to start out slowly and continue in the same vein, but this latest infection has left me with a real need for permanent oxygen supply – something my pride has not quite caught up with.

Last night, K had some old work colleagues over for a girlie night in, which I couldn’t avoid and actually really enjoyed (she’s really quite girlified me). But even though it was in our place, and spent entirely sat on the sofas in he lounge, I couldn’t bring myself to wear my O2 in front of the group.

Silly, I know, but a good example of the adaptations I’m having to make to carry on as normal. I’ve got to get used to the idea that I’m going to have to have my nasal specs on when people are here and, more troubling for the moment, I’m going to have to get used to taking a portable cylinder out with me when I leave the flat.

It’s hard to describe the battle of heart and mind that’s going on at the moment – my head knowing that things are not only easier but also much better with the O2 on, my heart not wanting to be seen as a “sick person” by all and sundry who see me in the street.

One of the few blessings of CF is that to the untrained eye (and often to the trained, if you ask medical students patrolling the wards in hospital), the average person with CF doesn’t look any different to the average person without CF. Slightly skinny, maybe, but skinniness is somewhat in vogue at the moment anyway (for the girls, at least) so it’s not a big thing.

Going out with nasal specs and an O2 cylinder is another matter altogether. No one else does that. “Normal” people don’t travel adorned with extra air. Which means admitting to the world that you’re not the He-Man you wanted them to think you were. Or, at the very least, admitting that you’re “different”.

It’s one of life’s little ironies that I’ve spent such a lot of my life championing individuality to my friends, family and, more than anyone, the kids in my workshops, and now here I find myself aching to conform, to fit in, to blend.

But needs must, and I know I’ll come around to it. I just need to be more forceful with myself and understand that if I’m wearing the O2, I’ll be able to do more than I can at the moment, and hopefully “freedom” will be the spur that allows me to come to terms with it.

Failing that, anyone with any other ideas, please let me know!

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