A Chance Meeting Led to My Involvement in the CF Community

Although I had heard of cystic fibrosis, I never knew anything about the disease until a chance meeting with a member of the CF community during a networking event. Since then, I have provided donations to CF events and am in awe of the determination and attitude that people with CF have about life.

July 15, 2021 | 5 min read
Barry Gottlieb

Several years ago, I was invited to participate in an extraordinary networking event, “Train on the Train.” The event was sponsored by the new “Virgin BrightLine Train” system that ran from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

I was excited to experience this new traffic-free version of transportation that included a networking experience with 50 like-minded individuals. Little did I know that I would make a connection that truly inspired me.

This is where I met Colette Beland. Prior to meeting her I did not know much about cystic fibrosis. Truth be told, I knew the words, but really did not understand the disease or the impact that the families and supporters have had in finding and funding research to help find a cure or to improve the longevity of people with CF.

Barry at the “Rock the Roses” event with his wife, Cat.

Thanks to Colette, I have a better understanding of the disease. During our conversation, she shared the amazing story of Mary Weiss and her three sons who were all born with CF. She shared the story behind “65 Roses.”

The story of Mary and her son Richard really resonated with me -- first, because of her determination to help her children and raise awareness, and second, because of the “roses.” Third, because I know, firsthand, what it feels like to know you might die at an early age.

When I was a younger man, I lived my life with a philosophy of, “What's in it for me?” I thought I was invincible. I was in great shape, a student of the martial arts for nine years, and a state champion racquetball player. I had good friends and a great job teaching at the University of Florida. I was on top of the world.

That all changed with one sentence … “You need to get your affairs in order, you have three months, six -- at the most -- to live.”

I sat across the desk from my oncologist as he spoke these words that shook my world, my very core. I thought he must be talking about somebody else. This couldn't be happening to me. I am too young (25 at the time); I am in great shape … it can't be true!

I saw the heartache and -- at the same time -- the strength of family and friends who supported me. Despite my dire cancer prognosis, I survived and am cancer free.

When you are facing the news that you are going to die from a disease, you have a choice. You can give up and give in to the disease, or you can choose to make the most out of every moment of every day and celebrate and be grateful for all that you do have.

Those who are living with CF and all the families who are dealing with this disease are true champions and angels.

After hearing about cystic fibrosis and the story about 65 Roses®, I told Colette that many years ago my partners and I were the largest rose growers in the world and that I still have many connections with rose growers.

BAM! Talk about serendipity.

Since that train ride, my friendship with Colette and the CF community has grown. My wife and I attended the “Rock the Roses” event in West Palm Beach. We were impressed by the families we met, and the sponsors who donated. We were in awe of the people who had CF and their determination and attitude about life.

Including that event, we gladly donated thousands of roses to support CF families and sponsors in appreciation for all that they give.


I have always believed that true abundance is not measured by what you have … rather, it is measured by what you give. An amazing thing happens when you give -- you both win.

The real tragedy is not dying at a young age. The tragedy is making it to 70, 80, or 100, but never truly having lived. I live my life with the following mantra: Every day is a gift, and the quality of your life is your gift to yourself.

Interested in sharing your story? The CF Community Blog wants to hear from you.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Barry's mission is to inspire and empower others to reach their full potential. He began his career first as a teacher, then a school principal, and finally as an instructor at Santa Fe Community College and the University of Florida. During this time, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given three to six months to live. His story of recovery was the inspiration for his first book and change in his lifestyle and career shift to business. Today Barry is an author, speaker, and empowers individuals and companies to reach their full potential.

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