When you meet Kathleen and Tom Armstrong, you want to get to know them better. They’re both full of energy and doing whatever it takes to keep their 11-year-old son Michael healthy and strong.
When Kathleen was pregnant with her youngest son, Michael, she saw problems in his intestines, and she knew he had CF. Armstrong had three siblings with CF. Kathleen was the only child born without CF. Having lived her entire life with siblings who had CF, and losing all of them to the disease, Armstrong is still optimistic about Michael’s future. “I have no doubt in my mind that my little ray of sunshine is going to give me grandkids, if I live long enough to see it. He is just full of energy, and he’s healthy. He has had a nagging cough before, when it’s winter, I mean what are you going to do? We put him on a strong drug. He has been on the Tobi (inhaled medication). Twenty-eight days on and twenty-eight days off. Michael is in fact doing very well. There have been little landmarks. He just broke the sixty-pound mark and I think he’s 59 inches; he’s tall enough now to go on all the rides at Michigan Adventure theme park. Every year we go and every year –nope can’t go buddy – he’s not tall enough. This year Michael finally passed the fifty-two inch mark, it was terrific. He had a blast, he fears nothing.”
Armstrong says that every once in a while Michael does get on the “poor me” train. “I kick him right off of it,” says Armstrong, “I have never allowed Michael to wallow in it because it serves no purpose.” There are times when Michael is tired or cranky and would just rather not face the realities of CF. “I will tell him, I know baby, but we have to do your treatments. I’m not Attila the Hun, but on just average days when he’s playing with this legos or whatever, I’ll ask him where he wants to do his treatment. On those days he may say he doesn’t want to do it at all. I am just insistent. I tell him to pick a place to do his treatment and he’ll finally choose somewhere like his bedroom. That’s his only bone of contention is those breathing treatments. It restricts what you can do at that time. or may disrupt playing with friends. Its just part of the plan. If his friends are over, and if he’s having his breathing treatment…paws for the cause…and the friends don’t give it a second look, the first time they asked what the treatments were all about. Michael explained it and they were ok with it. Then they go on with whatever they’re doing. That’s really cool. So his friends don’t see it, they don’t see the CF. He’s just a normal kid that has this routine.”
Armstrong says Michael has been through so much. “It makes me intolerant of people who complain about petty stuff. Get a life; do you know how good you have it? Every once and a while I just don’t want to hear it. I don’t have time for people who complain about the petty stuff.”
Michael’s Dad Tom says the hardest part for him is watching his son suffer. “I have learned from all that we have been through. It has taught me that happiness is a choice.”
Armstrong says don’t take anything for granted. “I stay home and take care of Michael, Tom Is involved in fund raising. We all do the Great Strides walk. That’s my little shield; this is what I have to do to deal with it all. I don’t like to think too far into the future. That reminds me of the siblings I lost to CF, and I don’t want to go there.
Advice Tom would give to newly diagnosed parents. “There are treatments, it will be ok. There are good things coming down the pike, don’t give up hope, do research, get information. There are a so many CF people living long productive lives. Don’t be negative, I believe in positive thinking and the power of prayer. Prayer is very helpful. And when it’s his time to go, it’s His decision, and we’ll scratch and fight and kick until then, and we’ll deal with that if it comes. He’s happy, healthy and thriving, a few hiccups here and there but I’m very optimistic. I think he has a long life ahead of him.”