When I was little, I always wondered what I was going to be "when I grew up," but I was always scared because the life expectancy rate of someone with cystic fibrosis was only in the early 20s when I was a teen.
I knew that I had to do my treatments in order to feel better, be healthy and live longer. I can still remember my mother telling me to do my treatments and fighting with me to do them when I was stubborn and didn't want to.
However, she was right. By keeping up with my medications and my treatments, I'm now a very healthy 25-year-old with no complications from CF. I truly feel blessed for the advancements in medication and for the support of my family and friends.
Sheena Druckemiller, local distance runner, overcame cystic fibrosis to finish her first half marathon last October. She finished the marathon in two hours and nine minutes, placing 24th overall and second in her age group.
Last October, I decided to push myself and run my first half marathon. I've always enjoyed running, but had never participated in an event because I was scared that my lungs wouldn't be able to handle the run - I'd have an asthma attack or I wouldn't be able to complete the run.
I decided to train myself rather than have someone else train me. Every few days I'd add more miles. I'd run five miles two days in a row, then run six the next and so forth. I never trained for the full 13.1 miles, but instead focused on making the 10-mile mark, so completion of the half marathon, regardless of time, was achievement enough for me. The biggest challenge for me was learning how to manage my breathing and how to pace myself so my body didn't give up on me. I didn't follow a specific diet plan while training, but I watched what I ate and ate healthier.
I ended up finishing the half marathon in two hours and nine minutes, placing 24th overall and second in my age group. I plan to run the half marathon again and still hope to complete a full marathon in the future.
Having cystic fibrosis has always made physical exercise difficult, but I find that if I do an Albuterol treatment right before I go for a run, I'm able to run better due to the airway clearance. I also carry my inhaler, to prevent an asthma attack, in case I feel winded during a run. Running, to me, is a stress reliever and helps my whole body feel better. It's a great exercise for someone with CF because it keeps the lungs clear.
Having CF has never stopped me from doing anything I've wanted to do. I have never allowed it to. I always knew that to accomplish my dreams, I had to push myself. I had to stay positive and not let the illness bring me down or discourage me. To physically be able to reach my dreams, I had to maintain my health and keep up my treatments to avoid being hospitalized.
I think the key, when struggling with any illness, is to not let it bring you down or let it stand in your way. I have accomplished much of what I've wanted to do, but have many more future goals. I have never been the person to advertise having an illness. To me, it's a part of me, it contributes to the person I am, but it does not control me.
I earned a master's degree in psychology on Oct. 7 and cannot wait for more doors to open. I'm excited for the road that lies ahead and what my future holds. I continue every day to stay strong and not let cystic fibrosis bring me down or stand in the way of accomplishing my dreams. I also continue with the belief that someday there will be a cure for cystic fibrosis.