In the Spotlight

Colleen Clary Perzan

Colleen’s ambition and positive attitude radiate through all aspects of her life. “CF has taught me how to be grateful for every day,” she says. “I appreciate every moment I can spend with the people I love, doing the things I like to do.”
When Baltimore florist Colleen Clary Perzan planned her 2006 wedding to fiancé Steve, she envisioned a warm summer evening surrounded by family and friends — and she knew just the flowers to carry down the aisle. With 65 red roses in hand, Colleen, who has cystic fibrosis, said “I do.”

Today the 27-year-old floral business owner is enjoying married life, balancing her treatments with her career, and giving back to the CF community that has given so much to her.

Life with CF

Colleen entered the world on Oct. 16, 1983, at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center — the last time the Orioles won the World Series. After her delivery, she was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital because of a meconium ileus blockage — a telltale sign of cystic fibrosis — with the trip taking a bit longer than usual because of the celebratory parade. Soon after, Colleen was diagnosed with CF.

Today, Colleen spends three hours a day on her CF therapies, which include four inhaled treatments, dozens of pills and a mechanical vest that shakes loose the mucus in her lungs. To help keep her lungs clear, she also makes exercise a part of her daily routine. “I make it to the gym as often as I can. Even if all I can do is take a walk with my dog, I try to keep my fitness level active,” she says.

The flexibility of Colleen’s job is also key to successfully managing her disease. “One of the best things about owning my own business is being able to make my own schedule,” she says.

Giving Back to the CF Community

Colleen can’t remember a time when she wasn’t involved with the CF Foundation, an organization that, she says, “has been a huge part of my life.” She participated in her first Great Strides walk as a very small child, and in 7th grade, she began leading her own team. For the past eight years, Colleen’s Team has been the number one fundraising team at the Oriole Park - Camden Yards walk.

“This is the one time each year I can ask everyone around me to help,” Colleen says. “There’s not much my family and friends can do when I'm sick or struggling — they can't take it away. But when Great Strides comes around, I can say: This is what you can do for me.”

Over the years Colleen has also participated in many CF drug studies and programs at her care center, including a clinical trial for Pulmozyme®, a medication that remains an important part of her daily routine.

In addition, Colleen has served as a CF Ambassador and speaker for various events hosted by the CF Foundation’s Maryland Chapter.

“It's been such a joy to be able to give back to the CF community, because they’ve given me so much,” she says. “The Foundation has helped develop drugs to extend my life expectancy and to keep me well and out of the hospital. Raising money is a way for me to support CF research and drug development, and hopefully, to find a cure.”

Looking Ahead

In 2009, Colleen faced her toughest year yet, with several hospitalizations due to lung infections. But with the help of Cayston®, a new inhaled antibiotic developed with support from the Foundation, Colleen recovered and was able to attend the Orioles Opening Day with her husband Steve — the “ultimate Orioles fan.”

In the years ahead, Colleen hopes to add even more accomplishments to her already impressive resume. “My future goals are to continue to stay strong fighting CF, and to meet new friends and get them involved and excited about what the CF Foundation is doing as well,” she says. “I also look forward to furthering my career as a florist and starting a family one day.”

And she won’t rest until a cure is found. “When that day comes, I don’t know how I’m going to celebrate, but I know exactly how I'm going to feel,” she says. “I am going to be completely elated and overjoyed and overcome with emotion, and I know I’m going to be sharing that with everyone else with CF, everyone who’s related to someone with CF, and everyone who has lost someone to CF.”

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Posted 02/1/11