In the Spotlight

Mike Burke

Mike Burke

Mike Burke, 44, is a runner, author and motivational speaker who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant. 

Mike Burke, 44, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant. Growing up, he knew what that meant: He most likely would not live to see adulthood.

"My life expectancy was always two years into the future. When I was ten, I was told I’d only live to be 12. When I was 16, I was told I wouldn’t live past 18," Mike said. “I was always waiting for the worst thing to happen to me.”

The constant worry that life would be cut short caused Mike to make poor choices. He admits his attitude was usually negative, and he rarely talked about CF, even with close friends.

As Mike got older, though, his attitude began to shift. Thanks, in part, to advances in treatment and care supported by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Mike was able to celebrate his 20th birthday. Then his 25th. When he turned 30, he realized he beat everyone's expectations — even his own. The realization was life changing.

"I decided that I needed to do something to keep myself healthy, so I could keep living,” Mike recalls. “I like challenges, so I sought out the biggest challenge I could find. For me, that was a marathon.”

Running to Live

Mike Burke Hiking

After completing his first marathon in 2001, Mike noticed substantial, positive changes to both his physical and mental health. Today, hiking, running and biking are all part of his plan to stay healthy and fight CF.

Mike completed his first marathon in November of 2001. The feeling of accomplishment was great, but what really stood out were the physical, mental and emotional benefits. He coughed less, gained 10 pounds and, day after day, felt happy.

“Running taught me how to combat my disease. I learned not to be afraid of CF,” he said. “I started paying more attention to my doctors and my diet, all because I wanted to run better, faster, longer.”

To date, Mike has competed in nine marathons, 20 half marathons and a triathlon. He coaches other marathon runners, and says his true passion in life is inspiring others to discover what they’re capable of.

He recently wrote a book about his experiences called Waiting to Die, Running to Live. He hopes it will help other chronically ill patients take charge of their futures by finding purpose in their own lives.

“I tell people to get focused on something they really enjoy doing. Once you find that thing you really enjoy, then what you have to do — in this case, taking medicine and completing treatments — will become what you want to do,” Mike said. “Without running, I just had to take medicine. By running, I want to take medicine and adhere to CF treatments because they allow me to do the thing I love.”

Adhering to his treatment regimen is no easy task. In addition to staying fit, coaching others and speaking at events, Mike must complete 90 minutes of specialized CF therapies each day just to stay healthy.

Giving Life

Mike Burke Speaking

Mike Burke recently wrote a book called Waiting to Die, Running to Live. He hopes it will help other people with chronic illnesses to take charge of their futures by finding purpose in their own lives.

Mike believes he wouldn’t be where he is today without the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He actively supports the Foundation’s mission by participating in the Gateway Chapter’s CF Cycle for Life and Xtreme Hike events in St. Louis.

Mike also enjoys telling his story — and the story of the CF Foundation — at galas, dinner dances and other fundraisers.

“Everything I’ve been able to accomplish wouldn’t be possible without the constant progression of science and medicine. That progression is fueled by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation,” he said. “When I ask people to donate money, I tell them that their money is a tool that is used to give life. And I am a perfect example of that.”

To learn more about Mike, visit his website.