In the Spotlight

Kristina de Bree 

For Kristina de Bree, optimism is more than an outlook — it’s downright retaliation against cystic fibrosis. The 25-year-old Californian, who has CF, thrives off her determination to help others who are facing serious illnesses.

“For me, there is such a silver lining in living with this disease,” she says. “You get a rare, unique perspective on life and experience. It’s a tremendous asset to be able to share that with the world.”

Overcoming the Challenges of CF

Kristina de Bree (front, fourth from right), 25, leads her Great Strides team at the walk she helped organize in Valencia, Calif.
Kristina de Bree (front, fourth from right), 25, leads her Great Strides team at the walk she helped organize in Valencia, Calif.
Over the years, Kristina has surmounted a seemingly endless cycle of hurdles, from spending her first five years largely in the hospital to coping with diabetes. Her daily regimen involves up to four hours of breathing treatments, which includes wearing a mechanical vest that vibrates her chest walls to break up mucus, taking dozens of pills throughout the day, using nasal irrigation and wearing an insulin pump to stabilize her blood glucose levels.

“I’ve had a lot of challenges,” she says. Adolescence was a particularly difficult time, when she internalized her struggles and viewed her disease as a punishment. “I really felt a loss of control of my life,” she remembers.

“But around age 15,” she explains, “I came to believe that God gave me CF so that I could change and inspire the world through my life.”

As a graduate student at Pepperdine University, Kristina is now working toward her master’s degree in clinical psychology. In addition to motivational speaking, her goal is to work with chronically and terminally ill patients, helping to empower others and ensure they’re getting the highest quality health care.

She says the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and its team of volunteers, donors, caregivers and scientists have played a critical role in helping her achieve her goals. “When I was born in 1986, there was no guarantee I’d survive very long with this disease,” she says. “Twenty-five years later, look where we’ve come. To see results in our search for a cure is so exciting and motivating.”

Channeling Her Energy into Giving Back

When she was just 15 years old, Kristina wondered why her local CF Foundation chapter didn’t organize a Great Strides walk in her neighborhood. So she called the Southern California Chapter – Los Angeles Office, and together they put plans in place to start a walk in Valencia, which has since grown into one of southern California’s most successful walk sites.

Every year, she plans a different fundraising strategy. Sometimes her health setbacks are the focus of her message, and other years she captivates the crowd with jazz singing, one of her favorite hobbies. Hundreds of people attend the annual fundraiser, and over the years the Valencia walk has raised nearly $1 million. Kristina has raised as much as $25,000 each year on her own.

“For a rare disease like CF to have that level of support from the community is just tremendous,” Kristina says. “Every time I get a donation for the CF Foundation, I’m as excited as a kid on Christmas day.”

Posted 4/9/2012

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