Where my story began
I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at birth when I was born with a meconium Ileus, with the delta F508 mutation. My parents were told I would live till I was 7 years old….both being Engineers, and determined individuals, they decided to do everything possible to ensure that I would outlive that age.
The approach that was taken by my parents, and one which I continue today, is to be very disciplined with all aspects of my medical treatment – not only do I consider my twice daily nebulizer and physio treatment to be a non-negotiable and unavoidable part of this treatment, along with all the pills, but I consider exercise and diet and monitoring of my “medical stats” an integral part of this regime.
I always have been very active, and this was instilled at me at school where it was compulsory to participate in a sport each term. This continued when I went to university, where I regularly went to gym, and being a geologist, meant I spent a lot of time hiking and carrying rocks (literally!).
Diagnosis of CF-related reactive arthritis
Towards the end of 2009, things changed. After an initial misdiagnosis of gout, I was eventually diagnosed with CF-related reactive arthritis, which presents as inflammation in the joint around my big toe or in my Achilles, about 2 weeks or so after I’ve had an infection. Long story short – I had all the side effects to the first treatment I was put on (with little to no benefit) and the second one caused all manner of other, very serious side effects, so now I only take medication if I have a flare up. The unfortunate result of the reactive arthritis was that I couldn’t exercise in the way I had been before (running, cycling, yoga), and I was in a lot of pain. I all but gave up on exercise as I only exercised when I could, and was completely disheartened by how my fitness levels fell.
My CrossFit journey
Fast forward to 2016. My husband Gus had started something called CrossFit in 2015, and had been trying to get me to start. I was completely intimidated…. all these extremely fit and strong people, and there I was. I kept thinking I needed to be fit to start it, but eventually bit the bullet, and turned up. Because of the arthritis I couldn’t run. I couldn’t skip. Problem? Nope! I could row, or use the assault bike (as horrid as it sounds) instead. Flare up with my foot? No issue, the exercises could always be changed accordingly and I can keep on training. Within the first month my FEV1 (one of the measures of lung function) had increased by about 4%, and when I was due for my next bone density measurement, this had increased as well (the benefits of lifting weights). My FEV1 currently sits around 55% but I find that even if this drops slightly, I can keep training.
Overall, even though I have had a number of CF related infections since I started, these have not hit me as hard as they would have previously. Although I know that CrossFit won’t be for everyone, having the base level of fitness that CrossFit gave me fundamentally allows my body to handle infections better. On top of this are the obvious mental benefits, and the phenomenal community – I’ve made new friends for life through CrossFit! At nearly 40 years old, I can confidently say I have never been in such good shape fitness wise, and I am convinced that by having found CrossFit, I have extended my lifespan, and have improved my quality of life!