Megan West isn’t your average high school student. At 17, her resume is long and impressive: 4.35 grade-point average, National Honor Society member, president of the Spanish honor society, class delegate and student tutor.
Megan West, who has CF, became a certified Zumba instructor after taking up a new hobby: dance. She attends classes twice a week where she often leads routines she choreographed herself.
But that’s not all.
Megan recently added Zumba instructor to her list of accomplishments.
“It’s a good form of exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. I’ve always loved to dance,” she said. “You shake your hips a lot.”
Dancing wasn’t always part of Megan’s life, though. The journey to dance has been 13 years in the making and started with a different sport: soccer.
Megan started playing soccer when she was four. That same year, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Megan continued to play soccer throughout her life and was good enough to make her high school’s soccer team two years in a row. Unfortunately, she found herself spending more time on the bench than on the field.
When she worked herself to the point of dehydration during soccer camp and tryouts, Megan knew it was time for a change.
“I learned a big lesson — my health must always come first.”
Megan quit soccer and searched for another extracurricular activity to fill the void. That’s when she found the pom squad, a drill team that combines dancing with cheerleading. She was co-captain of the squad at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Md., where she was surrounded by supportive teammates and coaches.
“They understand that CF doesn’t hold me back and that I can do just as well as everyone else,” Megan said.
Megan’s mother, Wendy, saw how much her daughter enjoyed dance and encouraged Megan to become a certified Zumba instructor. In 2011, that’s exactly what Megan did. Now, Megan goes to Zumba twice a week where the instructor invites her to lead a couple of dances. Megan even choreographed a dance to the international pop sensation Psy’s “Gangnam Style” for a class of women in their 40s and 50s.
Megan was co-captain of the Broadneck High School pom squad, a drill team that combines dance with cheerleading.
“It’s pretty whacky. I do a lot of the moves in Psy’s music video – the horseback riding moves. The women in the class were a little confused because there are only two English words in the entire song,” she said.
Finding Her Rhythm
This spring, Megan joined the track and field team because she felt she wasn't getting enough exercise, so she is throwing shot put and discus. Joining the team means she has to run six days a week and even work out in the weightlifting room.
“She never fails to amaze me,” Wendy said. “She always tries new things to stay healthy.”
Megan, who has battled a lung infection for the past four years, takes 30 pills a day including antibiotics three times a week and a daily nebulizer that help her breathe more easily.
This fall she will study civil engineering at Ohio State University.
“This is a new chapter in her life and I'm really proud of Megan for following her dreams,” Wendy said. “Maintaining a balance between pills, nebulizers, exercise and school work will be the key to her success. I hope that she finds her rhythm when she gets to college.”
Helping to Find a Cure
Megan has participated in clinical trials at the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Johns Hopkins, including studies of hypertonic saline and how exercise helps lung function.
To help advance the search for a cure, Megan also participates in the CF Foundation – Maryland Chapter’s fundraising events, and her family has raised more than $200,000 through the Great Strides walk in Annapolis, Md. In 2012, Megan decided to begin her own team, Megan’s Maniacs, with her closest friends and fellow National Honors Society members.
“Great Strides means more to me than raising as much money as we possibly can to support the search for a cure,” Megan said. “For me, it’s about celebrating another year of life.”