By making exercise a keystone in his care, Chris Kvam, 31, an avid cyclist and chair of his local CF Cycle for Life event in New York, has refused to let cystic fibrosis define his life.
“I treat myself like an athlete,” Chris says. “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a sick person. I see someone who has run a 55-minute 15K, cycled 900 miles through the Canadian Rockies, summited the Col du Tourmalet and completed a half-Ironman triathlon.”
Growing Up with CF
Most athletes, however, don’t have Chris’ daily CF treatment regimen, which includes two to three hours of inhaled nebulized medications, airway clearance and taking other medications.
“I would be lost without the support and understanding of my wife, Christine (pictured here),” says Chris, who recently accepted a position as an assistant district attorney. “My family and friends motivate and encourage me to strive in all things.”
After being diagnosed with CF at age 4, Chris stayed active while growing up, playing tee ball and soccer, swimming, ice skating and skiing. In high school and college, he ran cross-country and track.
“In college, I had the benefit of running coaches, professional trainers, race calendars and teammates to teach, motivate and enable me to attain my athletic goals,” Chris says.
After graduation, however, he stopped running and his health declined. Eventually, he hit rock bottom physically. “After college, I had a hard time motivating myself to maintain my fitness,” Chris remembers. “My support system vanished. I had nothing to train for and no teammates to do it with, and I became very ill.”
Fortunately, Chris recovered. “I realized I had to re-create the things that made my collegiate running career possible,” he says.
Instead of returning to running, he branched out to biking, joined a cycling club and trained for three to four cycling events each year. “I feel a sense of freedom on the bike that I didn’t feel with running,” Chris says. “Every time I ride, I am thankful that I can do it.”
His determination and strength have resulted in professional success as well, with Chris recently graduating from law school and accepting a position as an assistant district attorney.
Sharing His Passion for Cycling
Today Chris rides 300 miles weekly and focuses on training for difficult endurance events that require a high level of fitness to complete, such as triathlons, cross-country ski marathons and extremely hilly cycling rides. “I set goals that require adherence to my treatment regimen,” he says, noting that exercise has been shown to be an important part of maintaining lung health, especially for people with CF.
“In addition, exercise is something I enjoy. It is not another half-hour on the couch inhaling medication; it is a welcomed break from all of that.”
Last August, Chris shared his passion for cycling by chairing and developing two routes for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s first annual Finger Lakes Aptalis CF Cycle for Life in New York. There were 42 riders, raising a little over $17,000.
In addition to providing critical financial support for the Foundation’s mission, Chris says the event is a showcase of hope for parents and their children with CF who volunteer to give cyclists water at the rest stops. “It makes me feel good that they’re seeing someone with CF do this, and do it well.”
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