GUEST BLOG POST: Stefan Strecko
Hiya! Jeremie here again. This weeks episode is a special one for me. It's the sequel to Cystic Fibrosis but this time we chat with someone else living with the disease to hear what their experience has been like! This is a big deal for me. Why? Well, mostly due to the fact that for the better part of a decade I've had to avoid any direct contact with anyone living with Cystic Fibrosis. So obviously you can imagine that when Stefan and I got together to record, I was full of questions. My excitement is rather obvious throughout the episode... so bare with me. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did! Check out Stef's blog post below, and you can listen to his episode here!
My name is Stefan Strecko, and I’m a 23-year-old student, graduating Dalhousie this year. Although to the untrained eye I look like your embarrassingly short, louder than average guy, I swear it’s much different.
This morning, I woke up feeling like absolute crap, spent an hour doing treatments, coughed all through my classes, and had a nap ‘cause I was so fatigued. On top of this, I spent a decent amount of time stressing about my future health and even popped more than 40 pills. It’s during times like these that my condition drains me mentally and physically.
I have cystic fibrosis, a god damn disease that affects my lungs, digestive, and even reproductive system. Basically, the organs affected are getting flooded with thick mucus, which will eventually kill me, as they will deteriorate from serious infections. It was no smack in the face being faced with CF, because I was diagnosed when only 6 months old. Growing up with it from such a young age has basically made it a normal life to me. Daily, I take a nebulizer, which delivers medicine to my lungs, and have to take digestive enzymes every time I eat, since my pancreas doesn’t produce them. CF is the most common genetic disease in Canada, and currently it has no cure.
I have found, as I get older, and the more experience I have, the more I have become aware of my disease than I was at a younger age. The reality is, having a disease at times does really suck, and it does take a lot of courage and strength to stay positive.
As if living with CF wasn’t enough on my plate, in 2013 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I received an orchiectomy (removal of one testicle), and have since been in remission. Hearing that I had cancer was, perhaps, the most frightening thing I have ever heard in my short life. Luckily, I caught it early and it was confined just to my one nut, which saved me from doing any other cancer treatments.
So, enough of the gloomy shit! I am insanely stoked to do what I’ve done, what I will do, and to continue to be the person I am. I’ve pushed my body to insane limits in sports (which isn’t easy with crappy lungs), traveled to amazing places, and am proud to say I’m graduating university (something a lot of people with CF will never do).
Being a sicko also has some pretty great benefits. I get all kinds of rad perks for being labeled as a disabled person. When I’m sick, I have an awesome reason to get out of any commitment, no matter how large. I have a great ice breaker that will surprise just about anyone, and I’ve even gone as far as pulling out my one testicle at the bar to avoid getting kicked out, I know what you’re thinking, “who does that shit?”
Although all those are fantastic, there’s one that beats them all, sharing my story. When I began speaking publicly about CF, I was like a lot of people, thinking that public speaking would end my life. As I got more comfortable, with time (and a couple shots of gin), I realized how awesome the opportunity was. When someone first told me that my speaking had inspired them, that was, without a doubt, the coolest thing I have ever been told. The ability to do this, and to spread awareness about CF is a great feeling.
CF has shown me a life without limits, a life in which I can take charge, with a fearless approach and do whatever I want. This is a priceless lesson to learn and unfortunately not everyone lives an “any day could be your last” lifestyle.
Thanks to Jer and the boys for having me on the show, it was an incredible experience.