Breathe In, Breathe Out

What a Year It has Been January 30, 2019

Filed under: IVF,My posts — elanaalfred @ 1:32 am
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One year ago today, on January 29, 2018, I found out I was pregnant from my first IVF cycle. Even at the time, it didn’t feel like an overwhelmingly special moment–maybe because I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to last– but for some reason it’s been on my mind recently. In some ways it feels like it was yesterday, but for the most part, it feels like an eternity has passed.


Little did I know after losing that pregnancy, that what felt like an unbearable loss then, was only a sliver of the grief the rest of the year would bring me, especially the last couple of months. On October 29th the excitement we were feeling about a pregnancy from our fourth IVF cycle was shattered. Without getting into too many details, we had a second miscarriage. We were just under ten weeks, so still early, but this time there was a strong heartbeat at the first ultrasound, we had been told the chances of a healthy baby was 90%, and we had let ourselves get excited. We had told our immediate families, and everyone was elated. But by the next ultrasound, it was over–there was no heartbeat. There is no way to describe the heartache, emptiness, and loneliness, so I will leave it at that.


In the past couple of months I have spent a lot of time reflecting and processing this last ea photoyear. When I think about it, the rush of emotions is overwhelming. It was far and away the most challenging year for me, both physically and emotionally, but I have learned a lot–mostly about myself. I am usually not one to toot my own horn, but my biggest takeaway of this year was realizing and embracing my absolute resilience. To be fair, all women who endure fertility struggles in any way, shape, or form, are courageous and strong-willed. Simply put, we are badass.


The morning of that last ultrasound, I told Eamonn that if something goes wrong, I’m not sure I’d be able to function afterward. At the end of that appointment, I wasn’t sure how I was going to walk out of the doctor’s office, because I was frozen and numb. For days after, I wondered if I was ever going to stop crying. A week after my miscarriage, I was hysterical that something was wrong with me because I wasn’t bouncing back, I was still so sad and beat down. Eamonn and those closest to me had to remind me that it takes time, and that I was being a bit harsh, even unfair, to myself. I just wanted to feel like myself again. I missed me.


In the moment, it felt like it would be forever until the pain subsided. Yes, it was the sadness of losing a pregnancy, but it was also feeling the weight of the whole year’s experience. Afterall, this was my fourth IVF cycle–there had been a lot of hormones injected into me, a lot of blood drawn to test those hormones, way too many trips to the doctor’s office, long days and weeks of waiting on test results, plenty of uncertainty. Nothing was in my control, my lifestyle of exercising regularly and eating or drinking whatever I wanted was constantly falling by the wayside. If you’ve gone through it then you know, it was hard.


But guess what? I did bounce back. I walked out of that appointment, I started to function like a “normal” human being again, and eventually I did stop crying (I still have my moments!).In some ways I now feel better than ever. I feel more empowered because I know that it’s much harder to break me and my spirit than I had given myself credit for. I also don’t want to be misleading– I still have bad days, bad moments, and get caught up in bad thoughts occasionally. But I’m not as hard on myself because I know it’s part of the process.


Years down the road, when I am teaching my kid how to best handle hard situations, I hope I’ll think about this past year. While I am thrilled that 2018 is behind us, I don’t want to forget it. I want the experience to fuel me forward into whatever it is we have coming our way. It may not be a fairytale, but it’s my story and I’m becoming better for it.



Science vs. Spirituality September 17, 2018

Filed under: IVF,My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:37 pm
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I am a very proud Jewish woman.

I am not, however, deeply religious. In my opinion, and I don’t think I’m alone, the two do not have to go hand-in-hand. My Judaism is a big part of my identity–how I was raised, who I am today, who I want to become. But I do not attend synagogue regularly, we do not keep kosher, we do not observe Shabbat (though we would like to do more Friday night Shabbat dinners), and I have often questioned my belief in G-d.


With all that said, I am very spiritual. I may not believe in G-d in a traditional way, but I South Africa Thinkingstrongly believe that there is some sort of greater power and extra dimension of being. I like to believe that at our very essence we are souls who continue on even when our physical bodies have failed. I am comforted that those who I have lost in my life are somewhere, always in my presence, looking over me and my loved ones. I am at my most peaceful and calm state when I meditate and force my constant thoughts to rest even for a moment. I believe, in some way, that our lives are made up of people and moments that were given to us by fate. That belief in fate is what guides my spirituality.


On the flip side, I am completely in awe of, and grateful for, science and medicine. Eamonn’s life and my experiences over the past couple of years are dependent on continued advancement of research and knowledge to move science forward. For example, a few generations ago, someone with CF wasn’t expected to live beyond childhood. Now the life expectancy is 37 years and continues to rise. Without this kind of progress, I wouldn’t have my husband, nor the ability to make a family with him through IVF.


If we take out the emotional side, in vitro fertilization is fascinating. As we were starting the egg retrieval process, and we were given a tutorial of how it works, I sat there with my jaw wide open as the nurse explained to me in detail the many steps and directions. There is so much science and knowledge behind all of it, that for one of the injections, what they call the trigger shot, I was told the exact time to the minute that I had to take it. While many women trying to get pregnant think about their menstrual cycle and when the best time is to try to conceive, the timing is even more precise for IVF patients. The manipulation of our bodies to increase the chance of a pregnancy is beyond belief, and yet very real. So if science is controlling my ability to get pregnant, then where does my spirituality fit in the picture?


I do believe that both science and fate play simultaneous roles, though having been through now almost 10 months of trying to get pregnant, I tend to place more faith in science. There is a lot to balance while doing IVF– the drugs, the emotions, letting go of all control while trying to remain calm and sane. And with all of that, I struggle most with trying to find my right balance of being realistic based on the data, facts, and what science is telling me; with optimism, faith, and belief that what is supposed to happen will happen. With every failed cycle, my spirituality is dwindling and I struggle to maintain the hope that we so badly need through all of this.


I have to admit that one of the reasons I chose to share my story publicly was purely selfish. While my faith and spirituality is struggling right now, I’m counting on those around us to internally maintain their belief that the process will ultimately work for us. I don’t know what that looks like. For some it may come in the form of prayers, or hopes, or wishes, or yoga intentions or “good vibes”, but we need all the positive juju we can get! While you’re all working on that for us, I will make a promise to try to hold onto my optimism and faith as best as I can.


I’m Okay. August 30, 2018

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 8:37 pm

As my previous post mentioned, we were given the green light to start IVF six months after completion of radiation. In December 2017, Eamonn had a procedure to extract his sperm so half of our babies were frozen and ready to go. We wasted no time getting the other half.


At some point I will share more information as to why we are doing IVF and its link to CF, but that’s for another day. For now, I want to share our experience to-date starting in December 2017, without much detail but just to catch you up.


IVFIn December I started birth control. Yes, that’s right. I had never been on birth control before, but to start the process of making a baby I was on it for three weeks (it has to do with regulating my hormones and getting me on a schedule). The first cycle started with the egg retrieval and all that came with that. Long story short, they got 16 good lookin’ eggs from me, and I didn’t feel a thing (during the procedure)! Of those 16 eggs, 11 were fertilized with a sperm and all 11 made it to day 3. That’s a lot so we were quite thrilled.


Pause here for science–some patients are transferred (the day they put the embryo in your uterus, not implantation) on day 3, and some on day 5. It is the amount of days that the embryo has grown in the petri-dish and the doctor decides based on the full picture scenario what is best. Our embryos are day 3 transfers. Again, another time I can explain the why as far as I understand, but I don’t really think much about it.


Okay, back to us. Our first embryo was transferred on Saturday, January 13th. About two weeks later, on January 29th, we got a positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately, without getting into much detail right now, we had a miscarriage very early on. Needless to say, it was devastating.


To keep the story somewhat shorter, since that first IVF fresh cycle (the embryos were not frozen), we have had two more failed frozen cycles, with negative pregnancy tests. With each cycle, the routine of it has become more and more “comfortable” and familiar, but the emotions have never waned.


You know how almost every interaction starts with, “hey, how are you?”? Well for the past month, especially, I have dreaded that question. I hate lying, but I’m certainly not going to respond with, “well, since you asked, I can’t get pregnant and I’m heartbroken.” Instead, my best response is, “I’m okay,” because, I am okay.


The past 8 months have been hard. No, wood is hard. A penis gets hard. The past 8 months have been challenging, emotional, excruciating, and painful. But they have also been full of love. Eamonn and I have gotten even closer as a couple, and we are determined to build our family, including Rolo of course (for now he is loving being king of the castle). We are fully aware that when we do have a baby, it will be our little blessing and miracle, and we cannot wait.


Well, there it is in a very quick nutshell. I have so much more to share about the experience of IVF, the emotional side and the sciency side. What I want to say now though, is this– without our families, immediate and extended, and friends, we would be lost. I feel like I don’t say it enough and yet I sound like a broken record, we cannot possibly be surrounded by better people. We have not shared openly about this with too many people, but for those whom we have, thank you from the core of our beings.


I especially want to thank my “mentor,” you know who you are. I am extremely lucky to have someone very close in my life who has gone through her own IVF journey, who can relate to what I’m going through. She has been over-the-top present for both me and Eamonn, including meeting me at the hospital with me at 7am the day of my egg retrieval so that Eamonn could take Rolo to the vet because he was throwing up blood (it was quite the saga). I wouldn’t know what to do without her so thank you, thank you, thank you.


If you’re out there and going through a similar story, and want or need someone to talk to, I’m here. We all have to be here for each other.


I’m Back!

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 8:25 pm

HELLO Friends! It’s been a while, specifically since May 17, 2014.Erunnung

A lot has happened in the past four years, which you likely know if you follow me on social media but here’s a very quick recap:

  • In May 2014, we adopted our little fur baby, Rolo. He is the center of our universe.
  • In May 2015, I received my Masters in Public Administration from Northeastern University.
  • Eamonn received a double lung transplant on October 30, 2015!
  • In July 2016 we bought a house!
  • In February 2017 we had a fabulous vacation in Greece!
  • In May 2018, Eamonn received his Masters in Education Leadership from BC.
  • Together we have ran multiple races including 5ks, 10ks, a 10-miler, and a couple half marathons (mostly to Eamonn’s credit)
  • We welcomed 2 more nephews and 2 more nieces into our families (making a total of 14)!

We have most definitely had a fair share of fun, exciting, happy memories, but that’s not to say that there weren’t any bumps along the way. It’s taken me some time to process all that has happened in the past few years, and it is still a process, but I am ready to share more of our story.

In March 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 0, non-invasive breast cancer. It was a shocking moment but I was and will continue to be forever grateful that it was caught when it was. A lot of people ask how it was found so I’ll tell you, because it has a lot to do with why I’m starting to open up again.

In September 2015, I had my first mammogram to be extra sure that something I was feeling was nothing to be concerned about. All was fine. Fast forward to February 2017, at my regular annual check-up, my doctor felt a little something and wanted me to have another mammogram and ultrasound given the previous concerns. The results showed that there was growth of cells in one area in my right breast, so I had a follow-up appointment with a breast specialist and was going to have another mammogram in six months.

Simultaneously, in early March 2017, Eamonn and I had met with our fertility doctor, with whom we had actually met with for the first time in June 2015, with a plan to start IVF the following year (we will get back to this another time). The breast specialist saw that we had met with a fertility doctor just a couple days before I was meeting with her, and recommended that if there was any chance we could be pregnant in six months and not able to have a follow-up mammogram, then to have complete closure on all of this, I should have a biopsy to test the exact area of concern. On March 16th I had the biopsy, and on March 17th she called me with the results. All I can say is that when a doctor starts a conversation with “we have some very surprising news…you have stage 0 breast cancer,” you never forget it and it does change you.

In April 2017 I had a lumpectomy and in May I started my four weeks of radiation. Throughout the process, there was one major question looming over us, which was how long will we have to wait to start the fertility process. Part of the medical plan is that I have to go on tamoxifen for five years, during which I cannot be or get pregnant. It was to be determined if my oncologist was comfortable with me going through a pregnancy before starting to take it, or if she’d want me to be on it for a couple of years and hold off on our family planning. Needless to say, waiting for the team of doctors to make that decision gave me a lot of anxiety, but in the end they gave us the green light to start IVF six months after I completed radiation.

When Eamonn and I stopped to think about the series of events that had to take place when they did, we were so grateful because it could have turned into a lot worse. Our gratitude even extends to CF because without that, I would not be doing IVF to get pregnant, and there would not have been a red flag for my doctor to take extra precaution.

WHEW, okay, that was a long story. I hope I didn’t bore you.

This blog was originated to celebrate mine and Eamonn’s life together, with CF. Even after his transplant, CF is still a factor in our lives, it always will be, but it is not at the center of our universe, thank goodness. But if you did the math, the focus of our lives has shifted to trying to build our family, and I am choosing to share our experience with all of you.

I want to start off by saying that even as I write this, I am nervous and hesitant to share our story with the worldwide web. I am opening myself to a level of vulnerability of which I am unfamiliar. I know some of what I share may make some people uncomfortable but I really hope it doesn’t. At the end of the day, I am hoping that our story may be a lesson to some, a resource for others, and be a very small part of ending the stigma that comes with talking openly about fertility challenges that so many people experience.

Lastly but most importantly, I want to express my gratitude and love for Eamonn. We have been through a lot together in our eleven years as a couple, and you continue to amaze me as the human being that you are. My strength and resilience is because of you. Thank you for knowing what to say when or even nothing at all, for giving me hugs that make me feel safe when I feel like I’m drowning, and for loving me unconditionally even when my hormones turn me into a beast. You are what makes all of this so worth it. I love you an infinite amount.

With that, welcome to our family planning journey…


Lots of Love, and Forever Missed May 17, 2014

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:03 pm

I remember being taught as a young girl that the word “hate” was very strong, being encouraged to not use it describing how I feel about a person. I think that’s fair. But over the past number of weeks I have felt a lot of hate. It’s a feeling that I have never felt before, not toward a person, or even a thing.


I have spent some time writing and sharing stories about living with and being married to someone with CF. I try to be positive, optimistic, hopeful, and funny (not sure I’ve succeeded on this last one). Eamonn and I genuinely try to live our lives with these attitudes in defiance of a situation that would seem very bleak. But right now I feel hate because I deeply, passionately hate CF.


I very consciously have not shared much about Eamonn’s older sister, Kate, who also had CF, out of respect for her privacy. However, she was a big influence on how we have learned to cope with the disease and having it motivate us to really live, rather than dragging us down. Kate has been our brightly shining example of living rather than surviving.


KateI didn’t ever tell her this, but Kate was truly one of the best people I have known, and ever will know. I remember feeling intimidated the first time I met her because she and Eamonn were talking about Star Wars, quoting movies I had never heard of, and I knew right away that she was someone who I really wanted to like me—and not only because I loved her little brother. Her laugh was contagious. Her smile was the brightest thing in any room, and would only make you smile back. She defined what it meant to be a genuinely loving person. But most of all, she was one of Eamonn’s first role models as his older sister. They shared many bonds, one being that they both had CF. For most of his life, Kate was mainly a role model for how to live with exuberance and bring joy to others’ lives. As Eamonn got sicker, her role developed, and she taught him how to overcome challenges, not letting them keep him from living the way he wanted. Simply put, Kate was our hope.


I hate CF, and always will, but that hatred can only go so far. As much as I detest the disease I also know while it never defined Kate and Eamonn, it shaped them as human beings. It’s a part of what makes them such powerful, strong, courageous, and brave people. This world is a little less bright without Kate in it, and it’s hard to imagine our lives without her giggle, her random Facebook posts, her excitement for all things “mini,” and her endless positive spirit. But I know that despite her not being here, Kate’s influence on all of us will last forever.


May is CF awareness month. For the past 7 years, Eamonn and I have organized a team of family and friends to walk in the annual Great Strides Walk. This year, I cannot be there with my team, but they are still walking tomorrow! Please do your part in supporting the CF Foundation by joining team Rock-It-Lungs tomorrow, May 18th at Soldiers Field Road (sorry this is last minute), or donating to our team here.


But don’t just donate because Kate died, or that you hate CF—donate because you don’t want this disease taking one more incredible life.


A Milestone to Celebrate September 24, 2013

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:52 am
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Oh, hey! It’s been quite some time, hasn’t it?

I can’t think of a better reason for getting back to my writing than a celebration!

When you’re young, there is one day of the year that you typically look forward to the most, excluding Halloween. Your birthday! It’s everyone’s one day of the year that you feel the most special, maybe the most popular in the playground, and everyone wants to be nice to you. The best part about birthdays is that everyone gets to celebrate one when it’s his/her turn.

As you get older, birthday celebrations don’t feel as thrilling. I don’t know at what age it starts to happen, I’d imagine it’s different for everyone, but getting another year older starts to feel daunting, you’re no longer wishing the year would go by quickly so you can celebrate again because you know that the year will inevitably go by quicker than you can imagine, and now instead of bringing cupcakes to share with friends, you’re going to work on your birthday and unsure if anyone even knows that it is your birthday. I have just made birthdays sound super negative, when in fact they are not at all, even as the years go by.

Today is a really special day–it’s Eamonn’s 30th birthday! I have to admit that though I have only known Eamonn for 1/5 of his life, it seems very strange that he could already be 30. It is so true that the years really do fly by.

I met Eamonn just after his 24th birthday. Which means that his first birthday I celebrated with him was theEamonnin the wind big 2-5. I was so excited to plan a big bash for him—I invited all of his friends over for a party, I ordered his favorite dessert, key lime pie from Florida, and I bought him a pair of sneakers that I knew he was waiting to order for himself. It was a great way to kick off his 25th year. Now when I think back to that birthday, I would have absolutely celebrated in the same way, but I realized that I didn’t really appreciate and consider what it was that we were actually celebrating.

Birthdays should be a celebration of life. Since knowing Eamonn I have really taken to respect that more and more. Over the past six years, I have watched Eamonn survive his hardest days, taking each day in stride, and as much as he can, maintaining a positive attitude. Yes, the past couple of years have been nothing short of fantastic, with his health stabilizing and him generally feeling like himself, but that doesn’t change the fact that every day Eamonn has to work for his life. But every day he does it, without complaints.  In actuality, Eamonn celebrates life every day—by living his life, not necessarily one that he would have wished for, but the one that he has been given.

Friends, as you start to celebrate your milestone birthday (I know you’re all thinking that I have no right to talk because I’m not even 29) perhaps take time to reflect on how you want to celebrate life. You may not have everything you wanted by the time you turn 30, maybe not everything is as you imagined or expected, but I can guarantee that everyone who is reading this has at least one, and I would guess more, things to proud of, happy with, and that call for a celebration. As we all start to enter a new decade, don’t think as much about “Oh my goodness, how did I get here?” Think more about “Oh my goodness, I made it! I’m 30, and it’s going to be awesome!” Every day is precious, and birthdays can remind us of that. So, celebrate however you like, throw a huge party, travel somewhere new or somewhere old—but whatever you do, be excited you’re getting older. Celebrate what you do have and what you have achieved. And whatever it is that hasn’t met your expectations—go after it. And don’t forget to bring cupcakes to work—a year older doesn’t mean that nobody should know it’s your birthday!


A Walk To Remember July 1, 2013

I was quite content spending this weekend relaxing, and enjoying some quality time with Eamonn. I was happy to not wake up at 2:30am on Saturday morning, to get ready for what I only assumed would be the most physically challenging day of my life, thus far. I was happy to not be on my feet for 14 hours straight.

3:30am, and ready to go!

3:30am, and ready to go!

The Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Hike 2013 was a 27.5-mile hike through parts of the Taconic Crest Trail, touching 3 states: Vermont (very briefly), Massachusetts, and New York. During the months of training leading up to June 22nd, we learned about the trail and some of its obstacles, but it’s only when you see it face-to-face that you actually begin to understand its fierceness. To give you an idea—the first two miles, beginning at 4am, in the dark, we ascended about 2000 ft. in elevation. Over the course of the 27.5 miles, we continued to ascend a total of over 8500 feet.  It might not sound intimidating but imagine looking ahead, to realize it appears to be straight up, already having hiked 16 miles. It wasn’t easy—but it was all kinds of awesome!

Last year, the first time it was brought to New England, I couldn’t do the hike. Honestly, I was quite relieved, because my dad had mentioned it to me and having a wedding that day was an easy out! This year, I didn’t have any excuses, and neither did my dad—though I think he conveniently forgot that he had contemplated doing it the year prior. So with some thought and consideration for the time we’d be devoting to training and fundraising, we decided to go for it. Our first training hike with other Xtreme hikers was in March, which kicked off 3 months of getting physically and mentally prepared—and we learned quickly that hiking was not the same as walking up Whisper Drive, or running down Beacon Street for a few miles. That initial hike kicked our butts, only to make us more determined.

The many training hikes I went on with my dad and fellow hikers, made the overall experience that much more worth it. Originally I signed-up for the hike to raise money for CF, but what I didn’t realize is how special doing

Mile 13?

Mile 13?

it with my dad would be. First of all, I want to thank him for being easily persuaded. But mostly I want to tell everyone how incredible he is—how many almost 65-year-olds can say that they just hiked 26 miles in one day? But it’s not just that—it’s that he trained so hard, he fundraised like he asked people for money for a living, all while loving every minute. And I got to be a part of it all. Dad, I couldn’t be a prouder daughter. You amaze me.

I also want to thank my mom and Eamonn. On so many Saturdays, you both rearranged your plans to accommodate our training schedule. When we didn’t know how long an 8-mile hike would take us, and we guessed at about 3 hours, and then took an actual 4.5 hours, you both just continued to support us and hope we got home safely. Thank you for your patience through all of it, and most of all thank you for being there on June 22nd. I wish I could explain how your presence, along with Abby’s and Ethan’s, kept me moving onward. Your motivation and positive spirits allowed me to believe in myself over the course of those 14 hours on the trail.

And now to all of you — thank you, thank you, thank you. My dad and I may have put our bodies through significant pain and stress, but it was your donations and generosity that will make the real difference in so many lives. My dad and I had a fundraising goal of $5,000 and thanks to all of you we raised approximately $7,000 to date. Including the money raised for the Great Strides walk, we have raised over $12,000 for continued CF research. CF is on the verge of finding a cure, and because of you I have absolute confidence that we will get there soon. I also want you all to know that during the hike, my dad and I each carried with us a print-out of all of the messages people wrote to us if they donated online. To know we had so many loved ones behind us every step of the way was, and always is, overwhelmingly invaluable.

Eamonn and Kate –I love you both (obviously in different ways!).  When all is said and done, I hiked for the two of you. It’s hard to not sound cliché or like a broken record, but you both inspire me in so many ways. The night before the hike someone reminded us that our experience was about “suffering”, and challenging ourselves in a way that we had never done. It was a reminder to not take our health and lives for granted. A reminder that we were hiking 27.5 miles for those that couldn’t. As we were getting ready to load the vans in the morning someone else saw my look of concern and doubt for what was to come, and asked me whom I was hiking for. I said “My husband and sister-in-law,” and all she said was “and that’s enough to get you through.” I didn’t believe her at the time, but during the 14-hours I found myself thinking of both of you (not creepily), and even a couple of times saying Eamonn’s name out loud. It really did get me through. You are both reminders of hope and positivity each and every day.

At 5am, after about an hour of hiking, watching the sunrise, I thought to myself, “This is awesome.” At about 2pm, after hiking already for about 10 hours, with what would be 4 hours to go, I thought to myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” But I always knew why I was doing it, and it was unbelievably awesome (aside from the 6 painful blisters I acquired, and not being able to walk properly the next day!). I was told many times by veteran hikers that the experience would get under my skin and I’d be back next year, and I’d shrug and think, “I highly doubt that.” Now that I’m walking, not limping, and able to wear closed-toe shoes, I have to admit that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m back on the trail next year! Thank you to all my fellow hikers who made the past few months so fun and unforgettable. All of us hiked for different reasons, we got to know one another by sharing our stories, and bonding over a disease that has affected all of us in some way or another, but enough to make us crazy enough to hike 27 miles together. I hope we can all continue to kick CF in the butt.


For My Favorite Teacher. May 9, 2013

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 2:27 am

Mrs. Looney- who taught me how much I love coloring in the lines.

Mrs. Cone- who helped me advance my reading skills.

Mrs. Chapman- who taught me about US geography.

Mrs. Gordon- who taught me how to count money, which I have certainly perfected over the years.

Mrs. Fornier- who helped me improve my multiplication skills.

Ms. Mercier- who helped me improve my long division skills.

Mr. Prestes- who helped me with problem solving skills.


You never forget your first teachers. As a child you think your teachers are old and lame; that they have nothing better to do but grade papers and get ready for the next day of school; that their entire life revolves around their students. In hindsight, if students think this, then perhaps it means their teachers are doing a great job. And as the wife of a teacher, I can tell you it’s not that far off sometimes!


You don’t appreciate a teacher’s life until you witness it as it’s happening. It was not until I did AmeriCorps that I really understood what teachers do for a living—it’s not just about teaching math, science, English, and Social Studies. It’s about being a mentor, a role model, a sounding board, an enforcer, and sometimes, if cautious, a friend. Teachers really do it all (the great ones).


When I met Eamonn he was in his second year of volunteer teaching for Inner City Teaching Corps in Chicago, chalkboard imageand I had just started working at Peabody Elementary School in Chicago. He used to tell me that had we met during his first year our relationship would have never had a chance—he just couldn’t handle dating while learning how to be a teacher. As I was just entering the world of education myself, I didn’t quite understand that, but I quickly learned. Having kids a third of your age, but able to see the top of your head, telling you how big your nose is while you’re trying to help them with a science lab really takes a toll on you. Having a 5 year old boy with stronger muscles than you refuse to come out of the boys bathroom because he knew it took up classroom time was just exhausting. So, I suppose I’m just lucky that I didn’t move to Chicago one year earlier!


Eamonn may have had his most challenging year as a teacher back then, but what I can honestly say now, with only a little bit of bias, is that he has grown (and still is) into an outstanding teacher with so much love, care, and positivity for what he does every day and for the children he teaches. Without a doubt in my mind Eamonn learned much of how to be a great teacher from his mom, but with that said, he didn’t have to choose a career in teaching at all, especially as teaching is physically very taxing. Every day you are on your feet constantly, taking care of 20 (give or take) children and their individual needs, staying calm and patient when all you want is to do is pull your hair out. Spending nights lesson planning, making sure materials are provided for the right science projects for the right grade levels, on the right days. Eamonn has chosen a career based on what he loves, not based on what could have limited him.


As I have watched his health pose more and more of a challenge, I have also watched how the demands of being a teacher have impacted how he deals with every day. As careful as he always is about germs spreading, he is that much more careful now since being on the transplant list. Being with little kids every day means drying out your hands from too much Purell. It means constantly watching where kids put their hands, and reminding them of the importance of washing them after they sneeze, cough, or pick their noses. I remember when he was told that he needed to be on oxygen all the time—his first reaction was about teaching. He knew immediately that it would be a challenge. He knew climbing three flights of stairs to get to the 4th grade classroom would be a struggle. He knew carrying his bag with the oxygen tank would be tiring. He knew the kids, especially the littlest ones, would ask him questions and that his health was no longer something he could ignore with his colleagues. But he didn’t know just how much his school community would support him. The kids did ask plenty of questions but didn’t consider him to be any different than who he was the school year prior. When he misses school for being in the hospital (luckily this hasn’t happened in a while) the teachers are flexible with their schedules, and have the kids make him cards.


Eamonn could have chosen a number of careers—ones that would have involved sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day. But instead he chose the career that he loves, and one that he is great at, that challenges his physical abilities all of the time. It’s pretty simple—teaching is his joy and it’s so much of who he is. It’s never easy, but when he needs to stop and catch his breath on his way to class, he still never doubts that it’s what he should be doing. However, he may not always have the choice. The most difficult post-transplant decision will be about his career. He has been told, and we have discussed at length, that teaching is possibly too risky to continue with the constant threat of germs and getting sick. Eamonn will likely have to give up what he loves, but it doesn’t mean he will not continue to teach. Yes it’s cheesy, but Eamonn teaches so many of us every day, how to be better people, and how to not allow the negative to define who we are and what we are capable of.


Eamonn’s students will definitely remember him for being unique, creative, fun, and most of all for being a great teacher. He teaches his kids that it’s ok to be different, and that in the face of a challenge, bring it on.


As we celebrate teacher appreciation week, I thank all teachers out there who, in my opinion, are often undervalued because what they do every day takes courage and a lot of wine! I want to personally thank Eamonn’s colleagues for being such great supporters and friends for him. And of course, my mother-in-law, who taught Eamonn, and still does, how to be the best teacher he can be for never discouraging him from doing what he loves despite the obstacles.






Ain’t No Mountain High Enough March 13, 2013

I love hiking. Unfortunately, I do not go on hikes very often, especially because Eamonn cannot join me. But, for the past several years I have found a hiking buddy in my dad. Every summer we enjoy our annual hike together—the first year we took on Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, in the beginning of June on a record-high over 90-degree sunny day. The following number of hikes were less challenging, including one that was a rainy walk at Quabbin Revervoir, joined by countless mosquitoes. This past summer, with Abby joining us, we took on Mt. Monadnock yet again. I will admit, I was reluctant, feeling that I was not in good physical shape, but my dad was persistent (some might say stubborn) and we did it.

This summer I can say with complete confidence will be our most challenging hike to date, and possibly ever. My dad and I are participating in the 2nd annual Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Hike at Jiminy Peak in Western Massachusetts. We will be hiking 25+ miles of the Taconic Crest Trail, covering three states: Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts. And yes, we will complete this in one day. Are we crazy? Maybe. But most importantly we’re dedicated to CF research, and we’re excited to be a part of the CF Foundation and community and all it is doing to provide a future and hope for CF patients and families.

In previous blog posts I have mentioned my frustration with not being able to make Eamonn healthier—I’d give him my lungs if I could (at least one), I’d do his drugs for him or his twice-daily therapy. Other than being supportive and loving, there is not much I can do to make him better. As a loved-one of someone with a disease, that is far and away the biggest challenge. I have never been one to enjoy sitting on the sidelines, and I certainly like being in control. ?????

Hiker Main LogoThe Xtreme Hike is my way of kicking CF’s ass, as cliché as that is. Hiking 25 miles will be physically strenuous and challenging for me both physically and mentally. Already I am doubting myself–whether I can train appropriately, get into good enough shape, and hike for 12-14 hours in one day in June. Will it be hard? Of course. Can I do it? I hope so! When I do start to doubt myself, or when I think I can’t go one more mile, I will think of Eamonn. He is what keeps me going everyday, and on June 22nd he will have to just push me a little more.

I made a commitment to train and push my physical limits for the next three months. Eamonn has been doing that for 29 years and not because he chooses to. I may not be able to destroy CF or undo its damage, but I sure as hell can challenge its determination to take us down and I can promise it won’t. Together, my dad and I will walk for Eamonn because…we can. And we are crazy.

Hiking Mt. Monadnock

Hiking Mt. Monadnock

Now it’s your turn. Please support my dad and me by donating to our hiking efforts by clicking here. Our goal is to raise a combined $5,000 and all of the money will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in continued support for the incredible research they have done and are doing to find a cure for CF. If you prefer to send a check please email me at for my mailing address.

In case you are wondering, we are also participating in the Great Strides CF Walk on May 19, 2013 in Boston. Our hope is to raise funds together, as a team effort, but that you will also walk with us and join our CF family! To donate to our walk team, Rock-It Lungs, and to start your own fundraising click here.

I cannot thank you all enough for the continued support. I know I have said it plenty of times before, but your love and encouragement never goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It is our family, friends, and community that gives us strength, so from the very bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.


Mid-Winter Musings February 10, 2013

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:42 pm
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I think it is safe to say that many of us have been doing the same things this weekend—cuddling up with our softest blankets, watching marathons of our favorite TV shows and those rom-coms we never got to see, reading while drinking lots of tea or wine, and simply relaxing because that’s all we can do when Nemo is in town. Prior to yesterday I was somewhat disappointed by this winter. I expected a lot of snow, and we were not getting any. Instead we were getting cold, cold temperatures that really test our love for New England. During winter months in cold areas it is very common to hear people saying, “Next year I’m moving to Florida” or “Why don’t we live in Florida?” I’m sorry if you’re one of those people, but I just don’t get it. One of the best things about growing up and living in New England are the different seasons.  And we do each of them rather well.



Nemo 2013!

Nemo 2013!

My love for changing seasons does come with some difficulties, and ones that, before I met Eamonn, I often overlooked. Winter is especially challenging for him, particularly as a teacher for young children. We all know about this year’s flu epidemic, and I certainly hope that you all got a flu shot. As it is, staying healthy during the winter is hard—a common cold is inevitable. The flu is always a threat, but this year it became more of one, and as Eamonn is with children everyday, all day he is on alert constantly. I, too, am on high alert because having to take the train to work everyday with people wiping their noses and then holding on to the bar is a great way to spread germs.



Before I met Eamonn, I never thought too much about getting sick, and lucky for me, I have a strong immune system. But I remember quite well the first time I got sick while dating Eamonn—we were living in Chicago and our apartments were about 5 miles from one another. I had a slight fever and he would not come over to comfort me because he knew he couldn’t risk getting sick. I, however, thought he was being an asshole. Eventually, with enough persistence and begging, he came over with hot soup (he really is the best). I’ll never forget it because he ended up staying over to make sure I was ok, and we fell asleep holding hands, on my L-shaped couches.



I learned quickly that, though none of us want to get sick, if Eamonn gets sick it usually becomes more severe, and he can end up in the hospital, so he takes many precautions. For me, one of the hardest parts about getting sick is how careful I need to be around him. Earlier this winter I got the inevitable common cold, which lasted for a couple of weeks. During that time Eamonn and I couldn’t kiss each other goodnight or good morning or at all, we had to be extra careful about making sure we didn’t share drinking glasses or utensils, and I tried not to get too close to him as we slept in bed. It sounds small, but not kissing your husband for two weeks (especially when it’s my husband!) is a challenge, but giving him my sickness would be a lot tougher.



The winter is also challenging because with it comes more physical needs that most of us do not think about. As I

Eamonn "shoveling"

Eamonn “shoveling”

write this, I am listening to the bulldozer on our street making a first attempt to clear away the snow. Even that machine is struggling to do so. I cannot help but to think about, and dread, what all of this snow means if we want to eventually go somewhere—a lot of shoveling out our two cars on the street. For the average human being, shoveling can be quite strenuous, especially in two feet of snow. As a strong, muscular woman, I have no problem taking the burden of this work from Eamonn, but I know he wants to help and not assume I will do it on my own.



Another physical challenge that snow brings to Eamonn is simply walking. I know it sounds silly, but it really does become more of a hassle for him to walk in the winter. Not only is it cold (though he insists colder makes it easier for him to breathe) but with a lot of snow to walk through it becomes more strenuous. Usually we do not have two feet of snow, but when we do Eamonn dreads it even more than most of us.  But because he’s such a trooper, he just increases his oxygen flow and gets going!



Call me crazy, but I really don’t mind the winter in New England. Well, I could do without the freezing temperatures! I just cannot imagine a year without all four seasons, but most of all I think it makes us all appreciate the summer that much more. But as much as I don’t mind the winter, I do exercise much caution to make sure it does not get the best of Eamonn. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to control Eamonn getting sick, and he has enough hand sanitizer for a small village, but the things I can do to make it easier for him I do without hesitation. And if you don’t believe me, come take a look at whose car has already been shoveled out: Eamonn’s!