“I will never give up until the day I stop breathing.”
I have cystic fibrosis. I am a cancer survivor. And I am thankful for every day that I have been given here on this earth. My life has never been what most people would consider “normal.” I was born, raised, and still live in Anchorage, Alaska, a state most people in the United States consider foreign. Because I am one-fourth Tlingit Indian and in spite of my shaky health when I was young, my cystic fibrosis was not diagnosed until I was almost five years old. Surprisingly, my health was not adversely affected by the harsh winters in Alaska – but those winters did affect my ability to exercise regularly and stay active. I was fortunate enough to have a PE teacher for a father who was able to make sure that I was taking the correct medications and getting enough exercise while I was in grade school.
By the time I was in seventh grade, my parents did not have to encourage me to exercise. I made the decision to be a part of cross country, track & field, and cheerleading – all activities that I continued through high school. In high school, I realized that during my off-season, my health slowly declined, so I joined the track club as a way to maintain my health and my lung capacity.
When I was 18, I faced my most difficult obstacle when I was diagnosed with lymphoma and began receiving chemotherapy treatments to battle the cancer. I was dealing with both CF and cancer at the same time and my body wore down. Fortunately, I was able to beat cancer by staying complaint with ALL of my treatments and staying positive. I am happy to say that I am approaching my sixth year of remission.
While I have to constantly remain aware of my health and how my lifestyle affects it, my life is not dictated by my disease. I have become an avid runner and have found that competing in races pushes me to remain active and gives me a sense of accomplishment. My exercise routine varies along with the length of my upcoming race, but I try to run at least 40 miles a week. I take a cross fit class two to three times a week, go swimming and rock climbing indoors, and plan to try cross-country skiing with my husband this winter.
I am fortunate to have had a wonderful support system throughout my life and I plan to always make them proud, stay healthy, and live the best life I can.
I love to… learn about my culture by reading and volunteering with the Alaskan Native Arts Foundation and I love volunteering and raising money for CF.
My two goals are… to live a long, happy life and to see a cure found for CF.
Holiday: New Year’s Eve
Movie: Sabrina (with Audrey Hepburn)
Musical group: The Lumineers
If I could visit anywhere in the world, I would… travel all over Europe.
My friends and family call me… Breena or B, but my Grandma calls me Bean.
The people closest to me would call me… a survivor.
My role model… is anyone who can make light of a tough situation.
If I could give someone who was just diagnosed with CF some advice, it would be… At first, it will seem like too much to take in, but like anything else, if you give it time and stay positive, you will get through it. And always remember to help yourself by staying active and medically compliant.