When I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 12, I did not know what this disease was. Back then, we didn't have the internet to google all the horrific details of CF, so all I could think to myself was, “OK, we finally have an answer to why I have felt so sick the last few years of my life.”
I remember my mother and father being visibly upset when they were told the news. If I could go back in time and tell my parents, and everyone else who thought that I was given a death sentence, that I would be doing pretty good 19 years later, I sure would!
Looking back, I can say that I never let that diagnosis stand in the way of living out my dreams. Even at an early age, I was driven to be successful in whatever I put my mind to. But as someone with CF, my “bucket list” was a little different than others who weren't battling a life-threatening genetic disease. My bucket list included graduating high school, attending and graduating college, having a career, getting married, having a family, owning a home and living a long and prosperous life.
Nineteen years later, I have accomplished many of these items. I graduated high school and college. I have a full-time career. I married a wonderful woman, my high school sweetheart, who accepts me for who I am … and we have a growing family. We are beyond fortunate to have our daughter, who continues to inspire me to be the healthiest version of myself, and later this year we are adding twins.
But these life milestones wouldn't be possible without the drive and dedication of the generous people who donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The advances in medical treatment that have been made in the last few decades have allowed me and thousands of others battling this disease the opportunity to follow our dreams. I honestly do not know where my life would be without the researchers, doctors and nurses who are supported by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
To show my appreciation and gratitude, I walk in Great Strides every year. I want to show all the people who helped me live the life that I imagined for myself -- as well as the younger generation of people with CF -- that I am doing great. As one of the 2016 Great Strides Ambassadors, I want people to know that I am living proof that their donations truly make a difference.
There are so many people whom I will never get the opportunity to personally thank. So my promise to them is that I will never take this life for granted. I have been afforded the opportunity to make my dreams come true and have the possibility to pursue many more goals in my future … all thanks to the selfless people who want to see the day when CF stands for cure found!