Judging from the outside and her beautiful beaming smile you would never know the struggles that Erin Abay has been through since she was a baby and that’s just how she likes it. She does not let her medical issues define her. Residing in a small town not far from Dallas, Texas 28 year old Abay lives with her husband Mike and their ridiculously adorable fur baby, a shih-tzu named, Ducky.
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis by 18 month old Erin’s failure to thrive continued with chronic ear infections, digestive issues, asthma, as well as becoming a diabetic by the age of 12. To top it all off, she had to live with an ostomy bag as a teenager after a medicine that she had taken for her digestive issues caused a problem that destroyed her colon. Thankfully at 15 she had the ostomy reversed but she never forgot how difficult having the bag was which is why she reached out to us on social media after our initial interview aired. Even though she no longer had a bag Erin was thrilled to see a company finally doing something about the lack of medical friendly clothing.
Even without her colostomy bag attached anymore Erin says,”I have PICC lines often. My veins are just not great due to years of IVs so if I get sick I always get a PICC and clothing like yours that allows it to be accessed (and look cute) is a blessing!!” Being ill has affected Erin’s quality of life in many ways so it always blew her away that no one catered to this market—sure people had medical devices, but they still needed to get dressed. And that’s why she says the work we do at Life Tackled Inc is so important! She remembers as a teenager struggling with finding clothes that functioned with her ostomy bags truly making it a nightmare for her but in her words, “Life Tackled makes it gravy lol!”
Erin credits her loving family who remained strong and instilled in her the importance of sticking to her health regime despite all the extra effort she has to go through just to get through the day to day in an attempt to live a normal life. With a wonderful support system from her parents or “superheroes” as she calls them Erin often wondered if she would find a future husband who was equally as wonderful. As it turns out her fears were for nothing. She says Mike is nothing short of amazing as he has stood by her side for 10+ years and even helps her with her medications as well as administering her home IVs when necessary. And if that isn’t a sign of loyalty his dedication to outrageously themed family pictures definitely is, think Hocus Pocus witch or Clark Griswold.
But mostly she wants the world and medical community to know that it’s one specific thing that really keeps her going. In fact it’s something many sick people would say keeps them going. Their pets. Or in this case a certain pet.
Ducky. Duckman. Baby D. Duck. Whatever you call him he is pure joy to those around him.
As the officer manager of her local Humane Society Erin is surrounded my animals and says they give her so much peace when she isn’t feeling great so she wanted to give back to pets since they do so much for us. Ducky was adopted in April of 2012 adds nothing but pure joy to her life. She said she fell in love and bonded instantly with his calm demeanor. He just wants to be near her and she describes him as extraordinary.
Erin has to do 3 daily breathing treatments that take anywhere between 20 to 60 minutes at a time. And if she's battling a cold she may have to take even more. She also has to take numerous oral medications every day. Not only has “Duckman” been a support to her through her treatments but he comforts her when she doesn't feel well and is never scared off by any of the noises her machines make or even the ones she makes. But it isn’t just his calm demeanor that brings joy to Erin, it turns out Ducky is quite the Halloween fiend and LOVES to dress up. So much so that he is the star of his own Instagram page @Duckysdoings where his forte is some hysterical costumes of pop culture and the like that make it impossible not to put a smile on your face….or make you question all your bad Halloween costumes from the past. And Ducky? He’s too chill to care. Hashtag that babe he tells us lol.
In closing, we asked Erin what she would want people to know about her illness. And she said she wants to remove the stigma some may have about CF. “It's not something that makes a person with CF bad or abnormal or weird. CF is simply an aspect of someone's life, not the only thing that's relevant about them. We can work, we can love, we can learn, we can tackle anything, anyone else can. We may just do it a little a different or with a nebulizer in our mouths”. Erin quotes Michael J fox, “it's the gift that keeps on taking” saying this quote describes her experience perfectly. Yet despite this, she also says that if someone asked her to live this life over without Cystic Fibrosis, she would actually pause to think. While of course it would be much easier to not have to deal with daily medications and hospital stays, the lessons she has learned and the way it has molded her view on life, almost demanding that she appreciates every single thing, she says, “would be so hard to give up.”
We are all different and unique and yet at the same time we are more alike than we realize. At the end of the day, we all just want to live normal, happy lives. Thankfully, Life Tackled Inc. can be part of a support system to anyone fighting an illness like Erin. And help each person to come out on top, with a smile just as bright as the one Ducky gives Erin.
If Ducky gave you smile please consider donating to the animal shelter Erin works at as there are so many more animals out there who, if given the chance, would love to be someone’s sick buddy or best friend. Your donation keeps that hope going by providing food in bellies and beds under butts while they wait for their “Erin”. Thank you.
Written by Michelle Banfield-Arzola