Growing up I knew that I was different. As a child with cystic fibrosis, I did not understand the impact of the disease on my health and was determined to be treated in the same way as everyone else. I battled with my health from a very young age, and had major surgery before the age of 7. This surgery left me hospitalized from Halloween to my birthday in March. Looking back, I now understand the severity of the situation, but at the time all I thought about was how I was getting an awesome vacation, complete with room service, toys and friends and family visiting me every day.
Nevertheless, through all my health issues, my parents made sure that I tended to my studies. In my house, education was paramount and my parents stressed the importance of learning early on. Considering that my older sister was a child prodigy, my twin sister demonstrated skillful writing at a young age and my mother had three advanced degrees (she would later add two more), you can imagine the pressure that I felt to succeed. This pressure was magnified by the need to continue managing my health.
Although my sisters did not have to deal with any significant health issues like I did, I was never allowed to use it as an excuse. So I never did. I think that, in many ways, this helped shaped the attitude and work ethic that I have today.
Luckily for me, I quickly realized that technology was something that I could excel at and, more importantly, loved doing.
I attended Bowling Green State University with intentions of majoring in computer technology. However, when I got there, I learned that they had gotten rid of my major and I was at a loss. I was only a freshman, so I figured I would finish the year, complete my elective classes and transfer to another college to pursue my computer tech degree. While looking for classes that fulfilled my elective requirements, my twin sister suggested that I take a class that she was in: Nutrition 101 with Dr. Julian Wilford (aka Dr. Joe). She figured that if I hated it, at least several of our friends were in the class so that would make it worthwhile.
I went to the class with only negative expectations, but after my first class I instantly felt connected to the information, Dr. Joe's teaching style and the instant reward that nutrition provides. I immediately called my mother and asked her, “How would you feel if I became a dietitian?” That day I found my calling; I found my passion. I went from not wanting to go to college to graduating seven years later with a Bachelor's of Science in Dietetics, and later earning a Master's in Food and Nutrition. I ultimately became a registered and licensed dietitian.
I was able to find my passion, which I now use as a platform to educate others about cystic fibrosis and the hardships related to CF and nutrition. In addition, I pride myself on my ability to help athletes with their nutritional needs. I believe that it is my responsibility to ensure that they understand the benefits of proper nutrition on performance. Aside from athletes, I also assist individuals who struggle with allergies and co-morbidities. I also really enjoy helping other people with CF conquer their nutritional deficiencies by not only being able to relate to them in a realistic manner, but by also providing knowledge based on my personal experiences. Overall, everything I do has been inspired and influenced by making sure that people understand that their limitations are only as strong as the belief that you can't surpass them.