Impact on the family of managing cystic fibrosis and diabetes

Born in 1971, Tim Wotton is 51 with D Delta cystic fibrosis (CF) and CF-related diabetes and still has his original lungs. Living in Wimbledon, UK, he works full-time as a communications specialist and is married to Katie (a senior nurse) with a 15 year old son, Felix. Here, he shares the impacts of his chronic health conditions on his family.

It all started with my parents. Their love and support has always been readily available, all-encompassing and unconditional. Mum with her medical nous and determination, and my dad for guiding me into playing sport are certainly key reasons I’m still alive.

My wife is supportive of my health needs but we make sure that CF doesn’t define our relationship. I take ownership for my daily medications so that she doesn’t feel like my carer. It’s very important not to make CF more than it ought to be in the family dynamic. Treatments for CF and diabetes consume around two hours of my day, but that still leaves us the majority of the day to enjoy as a family.

Becoming a father to Felix in 2007 was a massive milestone. It was very challenging with the extra tiredness and disrupted sleep (although Katie took the brunt of night time wake-ups). The increase in infections that were brought into the house is a constant concern but one you have to navigate with a pragmatic approach.

I soon discovered that being a parent was at times counter-intuitive, involving situations that put my own health second. From the extra tiredness to increased risk of infection to being exposed to the elements when taking Felix out. Generally, I do as much as I can and act like any normal dad with Felix, which I know he appreciates. Indeed, we play hockey in the same team on Saturdays which is magical.

I was always inclusive with Felix about my CF. I didn’t hide my illness from Felix, who has always seen me doing my nebulisers, heard me coughing, and injecting insulin. Felix has grown up surrounded by medical paraphernalia and has become accustomed to seeing me use my bizarre-looking nebuliser and taking my tablets, which he called “Daddy’s sweets!”

The bond of love is strong. When lockdown commenced in March 2020, I had to leave my wife and son in London and shield away with my mum in Southampton for nearly five months, as Katie is a nurse and could have brought COVID-19 home. This was a very challenging time, not seeing Katie and Felix, and not actually knowing when I could safely return home to my family. We all had to believe we would be united again and our deep love got us through this horrendous time.

There have been many rewards to having a family. They are a useful distraction, stopping me from dwelling too long on my personal health battle. Indeed, I only need to look into Felix’s eyes to see all my tomorrows. Becoming a husband and a father gives me extra motivation to keep going for as long as possible.

About the author

Tim Wotton
Advocate living with cystic fibrosis and diabetes