CF Can’t Stop Me From Doing What I Love

Having cystic fibrosis means that hospitalizations are nothing new to me. But as I get older, I am much more aware of all the events I'm missing out on — birthdays, concerts, and school field trips. So this fall, I decided to take my life back from cystic fibrosis.

| 3 min read
Allissa smiling on the beach while holding an iguana with a lizard on her head
Allissa Gabriel
Allissa smiling and posing in her pageant crown and sash, holding a bouquet of flowers

When I was 6, my mom entered me in my first beauty pageant, and thus began our two-year pageant journey. We travelled all over California to attend and compete in pageants. My mom would find me the cutest dresses to wear on stage and would do my hair for me. I hated staying still while she curled my hair, but in the end, I would absolutely adore myself from head to toe! I loved getting dolled up. I remember on multiple occasions doing breathing treatments with my nebulizer and vest while my mom steamed my dresses. I still have all my crowns, sashes, and trophies from these pageants. 

Now I’m 19, and this year has been a bit rockier for my health. I have had to cancel multiple plans due to being hospitalized almost every month this year. I was hospitalized during my mom’s birthday, so I wasn’t able to attend her party — which totally sucked. I also was hospitalized for many other events I was really excited about like a renaissance fair, school field trips, other friends’ parties, and so much more. Then one day in the middle of July, I saw a sign in my hometown that read “Pageant sign-ups now available!” And there it was — my sign to take back my year. 

The pageant was scheduled for the end of September. Between the time I signed up and the actual pageant, I was hospitalized twice — both times for lung exacerbations. My doctors couldn’t figure out why antibiotics and increased treatments weren't making me feel any better. After lots of tests and different medications, we settled on steroids and an antifungal to target my aspergillosis. Within weeks, I bounced back to my normal self. 

I went out and bought a new dress and cute shoes to match. I did my own hair and makeup (with my mom lightly helping me, of course). I walked into the pageant room like I owned the place — not really, I was very nervous! I was nervous about being on stage and in front of lots of people. I definitely wasn’t expecting to win as grand as I did. I won the top title — the title of my hometown. This was massive for me, not only for the possible scholarships and opportunities, but for the fact that being queen allowed me to raise awareness for disabilities like mine locally and globally. 

Going to doctor appointments, being hospitalized, having surgeries, and sick days are just a part of having CF. We can’t change that (yet), but we can change our perspective. I overcame the challenges my CF handed me, and I took back my year. Now I am handling my responsibilities as a full-time student, a pageant queen, and a cystic fibrosis advocate.

Interested in sharing your story? TheCF Community Blogwants 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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Allissa smiling on the beach while holding an iguana with a lizard on her head

Diagnosed at only 5 days old, Allissa has overcome many of life’s challenges by making the best of any situation thrown at her. She is currently studying environmental sciences and entomology, preparing for her future to make the world a better place. Her favorite hobbies include pageants, roller skating, and advocating for young adults living with CF. She chooses to remain active in her community by volunteering to paint with special needs children and their families, as well as serving as the reigning pageant queen in her area. You can connect with Allissa on Instagram

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