Tick, tick, tick… That is the sound of our biological clock counting down the years, hours and second that you have left to make something of your life. What are you doing with it? It’s the same question everyone is asked upon graduating high school, and again after college. Most people don’t feel the urgency. That ticking clock is just an undertone in the symphony that is our lives. What if you weren’t so certain you had the time to figure it out? The average person starts with seventy-nine years on their clock. When I was two, the doctor told my mom that I had just fifteen.

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. My body produces a thick mucus that clogs the lungs and blocks the pancreas as well as other organs. My risk for acquiring a fatal lung infection is eminent but thanks to advancements in the treatment of the disease, my clock has been wound back to thirty-eight years. This incredible gift of time has not been lost on me. I’m tremendously grateful for every second and the sense of hope and opportunity that comes with it but that does nothing to muffle the steady march of those clock hands that so desperately want to catch me.

I was eight when I first heard them coming; those hands stomping so persistent and precise. That’s when I fully understood what was happening and the risks that were included with this life threatening disease. As sincerely as an eight year old could, I promised myself that my illness would stop me from nothing. As I got older that ticking grew louder and I sought to make good on that promise. At eighteen, I moved out to Los Angeles and worked on movies, I traveled through Europe and drove across this amazing country that we live in, not once, but twice. I traveled through Australia, dove the Great Barrier Reef, climbed Notre Dame and swam with sharks. I’ve skydived, surfed, and have even joined the Backstreet Boys on stage.

At twenty-three, I decided I wanted to be a radiologic technologist. The x-ray department was the only place I didn’t hate when I was hospitalized and healthcare has always had a special place in my life. I placed my suitcases back into my closet and I began to look at schools. I chose to pursue a degree in Radiologic Science at Cooper University Hospital. I graduated three years later, and even though I could still hear the incessant pounding of my clock, I finally started to feel like an average girl. I had a good job and an incredible life. Eventually, I woke to a thundering drone, more deafening than before. This time, however, the clock wasn’t instructing me to see more, it was commanding me to do more.

Again, I decided to listen to that clock and enrolled at Widener University in pursuit of my Bachelor’s degree in Allied Health. As of right now, I have completed four of my necessary twelve classes and I have already enrolled in my next four courses for the spring 2015 semester. Today, my life includes taking a full course load online here at Widener University and working two jobs so I can afford to finish my degree.

Every morning I wake up I can still hear the sound of that unrelenting clock, like a never ending metronome. It ensures that I push myself harder every day. I work to the best of my ability each day with my patients and coworkers. I strive to maintain my relationships with friends and family. I do everything possible to excel at my classwork. Most importantly, though, I battle my imaginary clock. I fight to stay healthy and keep my illness at bay so that I can continue to live the life I want. Some may consider me lucky, but I didn’t get here by accident; I accomplished these things because I knew what I wanted and I work hard every day. With each passing second I will continue to push, to succeed, and ultimately defeat Cystic Fibrosis and that uncompromising tick-tick-tick.

Published by Emily Kelly