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In the Spotlight

Fighting Back by Dreaming Big

At age 26, Lindsay Wadleigh has accomplished more goals and overcome more challenges than many people encounter in a lifetime.

"Dreaming big is the antidote to all the trials and tribulations of having CF," Lindsay says. "So I will never stop dreaming, and I will never give up."
"Dreaming big is the antidote to all the trials and
tribulations of having CF," Lindsay says. "So I will
never stop dreaming, and I will never give up."
Lindsay is an artist, a blogger, a singer, a dancer, a musician, a free spirit and a dreamer.

She is also a fighter.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at nine months old, Lindsay starts and ends each day with treatments that help her breathe easier. Using a mechanical vest that shakes loose the mucus in her lungs, an inhaled antibiotic and dozens of pills, Lindsay completes a daily treatment regimen that can often last four hours.

It’s a fight that she is determined to meet head-on.

“I realize if you don’t fight this disease, it will get the best of you,” Lindsay explains. “I’ve decided to fight back.”

Living a Great Life with CF

Although dealing with CF is not easy, Lindsay commits to living in the moment and being grateful for all the joy she finds in life.

Living just a short walk from the ocean in San Diego, Calif., Lindsay visits the beach as often as she can to reflect on her day. For years, singing has been an important part of her life; in fact, Lindsay even auditioned for American Idol in 2007.

She also stays positive by expressing her feelings about her disease through visual arts, sometimes working on creative projects while undergoing treatments that are uncomfortable and tiresome.

“I always find a way to pursue my dreams and ambitions and the things that make me happy,” she says. “I use CF as a point of inspiration. It feels good to know you’re living with CF and conquering it.”

Telling Her Story to Help Others

After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2006, Lindsay moved to California to pursue professional opportunities and to be near the area’s soothing, salty ocean air.

Once there, she contacted the local CF Foundation chapter to see how she could help other families affected by the disease. “I timidly, but with my head held high, said: I want to get involved, and I don’t really know how. Let me know how I can help!”

Now Lindsay speaks at Foundation events across the country nearly every month.

“It’s so fulfilling to know that your life and your story can impact so many people,” she says. “I’m committed to share it whenever I can.”

To help raise funds for Great Strides — and as a first-time team leader — Lindsay produced a YouTube video with the help of videographer Priscilla Gragg. “I wanted to speak to people in a way that’s accessible,” Lindsay says. “It’s one thing to read a bunch of symptoms on a list, and another to see how CF affects someone who is living and breathing.”

Lindsay also volunteers her time to participate in the Phase 3 clinical trial for VX-770, a potential CF therapy developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals designed to treat the basic defect in cystic fibrosis — a faulty gene and its protein product. “I wanted to advance these clinical trials to the point where there are new FDA-approved treatments that will greatly improve the quality of life for CF patients,” she says.

Full Speed Ahead, with a Solid Support System

Today Lindsay’s schedule is packed with full-time work as a technology retail store manager and frequent speaking engagements at CF Foundation events.

“Living with CF is a constant struggle, a juggling act,” Lindsay says. “I think that’s one of the things about adulthood that is difficult to prepare for, but I have a great support system.”

Lindsay’s network includes her parents, Barb and Dr. Greg Wadleigh, who were instrumental in starting the CF Foundation's Wisconsin Chapter – Madison Office; her uncle Barry Zoob, who volunteers and fundraises for the Foundation in Omaha, Neb.; her cousin Jon Zoob who helps coordinate Foundation events in San Francisco; her boyfriend, Charlie, and their two cats, Ernie and Linus; her co-workers; and the thousands of people she has connected with through the CF Foundation, her LindsaysLungs.com website and YouTube.

Lindsay credits these people, particularly her parents, for her ability to approach any opportunity and challenge head-on and with a smile. “They empowered me to really do whatever I wanted,” she says. “They didn’t shield me from the reality of the disease, and I was able to make it part of my identity so I could blossom.”

Even on “bad breathing days,” Lindsay finds peace and happiness in her favorite people, places and forms of expression. “Crankiness is something that passes,” she says. “I try to embrace the things that I love so much in my life, even if I’m having difficulty breathing, or if I’m coughing a lot, or if four hours of treatments seems like a lot — because I do have those days.”

Dreaming Big

Lindsay plans to continue sharing her story to raise awareness of CF, which in turn raises funds for research and treatments that make a cure closer to reality.

No matter what personal, professional and creative opportunities and challenges lay ahead for Lindsay, one thing is certain: She will face them with passion, confidence and courage.

“Living positively is going to get you through the day and beyond. Dreaming big is the antidote to all the suffering, all the trials and tribulations of having CF. So I will never stop dreaming, and I will never give up.”

Additional Resources

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Posted 06/09/10

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.