NORTH RIVER, N.S.
When Nicole Turple was four, a doctor told her parents she probably wouldn’t live to be a teenager after discovering she had cystic fibrosis.
She’s now 27, and although she’s had to make adjustments, she’s enjoying life and has a positive outlook.
“I’ve had to adapt my lifestyle to CF,” she said. “I’ve had more than 150 hospital admissions, usually lasting two to three weeks, and I take a lot of medication. It limits what I can do, but I’m working full time and I’m taking part in activities.”
When she was young, doctors first thought Turple had colic. A high salt content on her skin – a symptom of CF – indicated it was something else. When CF was diagnosed, Turple’s parents were told it was terminal.
As a preschooler, she had to take many tablets, as well as aerosols to medicate her lungs and open her airways.
“I’m on a CF diet, and supposed to eat about 5,000 calories a day,” she said. “I have malabsorption syndrome, so my body doesn’t absorb many nutrients from the foods I eat. Because of that, I take five digestive enzymes with every meal.”
Turple takes a variety of vitamins and minerals, uses three types of aerosol masks and a puffer, and needs about eight needles daily.
“When I was 16, I was diagnosed with CF-related diabetes, and I’m now insulin dependent,” she said. “I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was about 18, and I’m on medication for that too.
“I can get very sick, quickly. I could be fine today, have a cold tomorrow, and be in the hospital the next day.”
Getting sick means about another 10 pills, and possibly admission to hospital and IV medication.
She’s had surgery to remove nasal polyps four times, tubes inserted in her ears twice, and had her tonsils removed. When her digestive system won’t cooperate, she’s had medication run through tubes from her nose to her stomach.
“I definitely miss out on things; I’ve been in hospital on Christmas and Easter, and missed both my junior and senior proms,” she said.
“I do a lot of things and I don’t want people to see me as disabled. I walk my dog, but not as far as I would if I didn’t have CF. I might go camping when it’s rainy, but I may not stay the entire weekend.”
Although she has a handicapped permit for her car, she only uses it on days when she’s very short of breath. Even then, she’s had people tell her she shouldn’t be using the handicapped spaces.
She studied culinary arts but being in a busy a kitchen resulted in too many health problems, so she now works in administration.
Turple lives with her boyfriend and dog and said they’re both very supportive.
“I used to have a lot of friends with CF, but sometimes they get sick and die, and a lot of them were younger than me,” she said.
“I’m determined to keep going and educate people about CF. I want to get married and have children, and some day hear there’s a cure for CF.”
Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History
A Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History will be held at Shubie Park, Dartmouth, on Sunday, May 27. Registration for the 5 kilometre walk is a noon, with the walk at 12:30 p.m. There will be games for children and a lunch for registered walkers. For information visit http://www.cysticfibrosis.ca/
About cystic fibrosis
CF is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults.
There is no cure. It is estimated that one in every 3,600 children born in Canada has CF.
It mainly affects the digestive system and lungs.
Persistent cough with productive thick mucous
Wheezing and shortness of breath
Frequent chest infections, which may include pneumonia
Bowel disturbances, such as intestinal obstruction or frequent, oily stools
Weight loss or failure to gain weight despite increased appetite
Salty tasting sweat
Infertility (men) and decreased fertility (women)
- Cystic Fibrosis Canada