My name is Kadeem Morgan, I’m 22 years old and live in Pickering, Ontario. I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at one year old. I had all the symptoms of CF, but because newborn screening wasn’t yet implemented and because CF isn’t common in people of African descent, it took a while for my diagnosis. Sometimes I wonder how my health would have been if I was diagnosed earlier.
Two years ago, I received a double-lung transplant that changed my life. My health had declined so much that the medical team and my family feared I wouldn’t make it long enough to receive the call for lungs. Thankfully, I received the call and my new lungs have changed my life in ways I never imagined.
As a kid, I was never really keen on telling people I had CF for a number of reasons. Growing up, I had a friend who had cancer and I saw how people labelled her as the “sick kid.” I wanted to avoid that label, and didn’t want my friends at school to pity me or think of me that way. CF also is so uncommon, that I was afraid people would over-dramatize my hospital admissions and come to their own conclusions about the status of my health. My mom always used to say a hospital stay is just a “tune up”, but I knew my friends at school wouldn’t understand.
And so, I lived the first 20 years of my life hiding that I had CF. CF was hard to hide. There were times where I was away two or three months of the school year, and I would tell people I was just on a vacation. Getting admitted, unfortunately, was such a normal part of my life, and back then, so was keeping my illness a secret. People would ask about my cough, but I would brush it off and try to change the subject.
And then the transplant changed everything. Because I was the sickest I had ever been, I felt like I had no reason to hide CF anymore. And if I was going to have a transplant, people would find out anyway, and I would rather them find out on my terms.
I have found freedom in embracing my illness. My double-lung transplant was a rebirth for me both physically and emotionally. It opened me up to a world where I no longer hide my truth, I embrace it.
Finally telling my friends that I had CF was a huge relief. It relieved a lot of stress in my life and I wish I had been open sooner. I’m grateful that new lungs have given me more years of life so I can pursue my dream of becoming a motivational speaker. I hope to inspire others to own their story and accept their reality, just like I have. Music is a real passion of mine and kept me sane during the times my health (and my secrets) were driving me crazy. The truth really does set you free.
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