Michael: Keeping Mentally and Physically Healthy

At 36 Michael Cahill, who lives with cystic fibrosis (CF), has achieved some amazing milestones and works really hard alongside his wife Natalie to make sure they have the best life they can with their daughter Zoe.

What do you do to keep mentally healthy?

My daughter Zoe and my wife Natalie keep me going. Having a full-time job which I’ve always had since I was 16, motivates me.  If I want to support my family and have a mortgage I have to keep my job. I’m a Business Development Manager at Signs Ahead and I’ve been there for a few months, before that I worked at Signhere Signs as a manager for over 10 years.

If I have a bad day I will call Nat and ask her to get a picnic basket ready and we will go for a picnic at Whiteman Park. I also allow myself to chill when I need to. If it’s the weekend and I should be cleaning the house or whatever but I need to chill that’s what I will do. I watch movies with Zoe or we play computer games and just wind down and forget about any rough times that might be happening.

We also have exchange students come to stay with us, as company for Zoe. They stay for 10 months of the year so I need to be mentally and physically healthy for that too as it’s another child we are responsible for. Last year we had a lovely American girl named Molly and this year we have a lovely German girl named Paula.

Natalie and I have had our down times, such as going through IVF. It took us three years to finally be able to have Zoe. It was a hard and depressing time but together Natalie and I have conquered a lot of ups and downs. We have been together since Nat was 17 and I was 18. We have now have our second house together and have made it accommodating for when we need to just chill out.  Natalie has her craft room and I have a “man cave” (which Zoe likes to take over) and that helps us have space when we need it.

What do you do to keep physically healthy?

Since 2014 I’ve been on the trial for the mixed Kalydeco combination, Lumacaftor and Ivocaftor, which has improved my health dramatically. I feel it has had the most impact on me out of all the medications I have taken during my life. I’ve had no chest infections or hospitalisations since I’ve been taking Kalydeco. I also cough a lot less which makes a big difference to me too. Surprisingly the results of my lung function in the clinic haven’t yet showed a huge improvement, but I feel great. I can do so much more than I could before.

My health was steady before I took Kalydeco. I could do a bit of running and bike riding but when I crashed and burned, I really crashed and burned. Whereas since I’ve been taking the Kalydeco I have found I can do so much more. In 2014, I started going to the gym more often and then I decided to take up running.

My goal was to do the HBF run in May 2015, so before that I did the Aveley Park Run that our German student Paula got me into as she liked running too. I also did the “Great Strides” 4 km run in November 2014 with Zoe. We both trained for that each day after she finished school. Currently I do Aveley Park Runs which are 5 km runs most Saturdays with Zoe. In the last five months I have completed 12 park runs, 7 of them with Zoe by my side. The Park Runs are a world-wide thing, where they give you a bar code and time your run. In 2013 before I started Kalydeco and training for running, I could run about 2 km in 20 minutes, whereas now I can run 5 km in 28.55 minutes, which is my personal best. I am now aiming to be able to run 12 km.

How do you stay on track with your treatment, work and family?

We have a good routine so we fit everything in, as Natalie works too and Zoe does dancing a few times a week plus her other after school activities as well as Paula’s after school activities. We are disciplined in getting stuff done and if someone in our family needs something we just do it and work out the logistics later.

I always take my required medications as all my meds, together with the Kalydeco, is what keep my body going. Missing a dose sets me back and I don’t have time for that. I always find time for my nebs and inhalers, usually at night and close to bedtime works well for me.

We hear you have a big trip planned to the US at the end of this year. Tell us about that?

We decided in 2014 since my health was getting better that December 2015 would be a good time for us to go to the US as there is less chance of me having issues while we are there. Plus, Zoe doesn’t have to miss any schooling. We are going to the East Coast of the US; Orlando (Disney World and Universal Studios), Texas, Washington and finish in New York. We are going away for five and half weeks in total and will fly to most of the places, except Texas, where we have hired a car and will be staying on a ranch for a week.

This trip has taken a lot of planning, working and saving, and getting my health in a good way so we can go. Natalie has done a lot of the planning. I was able to get insurance for the trip through Insure and Go® and my health is fully covered. They are the only insurance company that would cover me. I am aiming to mainly go to the local GP in the US if need be. I will also have one backpack full of my medication for the plane and some spares in my suitcase just as back-ups. I am going to get extra medication to keep at home, ask my local chemist to have some medications on hand and give my prescriptions to my Dad so that in a worst-case scenario he can post them to me if needed.

Planning and preparing for this trip has been a huge motivation for me to keep on track with my treatment and look after my health.

I think what keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally, is having big goals with Natalie that we both work together to achieve. Our next thing to focus on when we get back from our trip will be to do some upgrades to our house and look at getting a new car – the bank loves us!  But keeping financially stable and wise with our money keeps us working hard and allows us to enjoy our life together.


Article from RED Magazine, Edition 4 2015.

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