I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. Little did I know how much it would affect my life. As a toddler, I was fragile and was in and out of the hospital. I realized at a young age that I wasn’t like all of the other kids in school. None of the other kids had to take pills before they ate. None of the other kids had to take a break from recess because they couldn’t breathe. I remember those days very clearly, but it challenged me to be the person I am today.
Through elementary, middle, and high school, I viewed life through a different lens. Although I knew I was different, I was also in denial about what that difference meant. I was told I couldn’t play sports, but I went out for every sport I could — soccer, football, basketball, and baseball. During high school, I accepted that I was different and hid my CF from my friends and peers. When I was a freshman in high school, I took a year off from sports because I was very self-conscious of my cough and people always asking me if I was sick. I played varsity soccer for the last three years of high school and was offered college scholarships, but I felt that my lungs wouldn’t be able to keep up with conditioned college athletes.
After high school, I enrolled in college classes I thought were interesting, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Having CF made the simplest things, like sitting in a classroom, almost impossible.
I felt self-conscious about coughing in a classroom, or having to hold in my coughs when getting a haircut so I wouldn’t move, or sitting through an entire movie at the theater trying not to cough.
After going to college for a year, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I moved back home to live with my mom and stepdad for about three months before deciding to move out again. I started working two jobs to support myself. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to become a nationally certified personal trainer and began studying for that test. After about a year, I decided to follow my dreams. I packed my things and moved to Los Angeles.
I had always wanted to train celebrities and professional athletes, so I searched for jobs within that field and soon began working in corporate gyms. Within three months, I ran my own training department with 15 staff members. Although I was professionally successful, I was working 60-hour weeks and suffered an enormous number of lung infections.
This was one of the most mentally challenging journeys I’ve ever been on. It was difficult to set a good example for my employees when I was struggling to just breathe and not getting enough rest.