I am joining two friends – Matt Theedom and Scott Chappell – on a grueling cycle challenge from John O’Groats to Lands End in July to raise money for two charities very close to my heart: Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Chance to Shine. I will also be celebrating my 50th birthday in July; an unthinkable milestone when I was born in 1971 with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Over the past 50 years I have benefitted from amazing medical research and discoveries, excellent health care from the NHS (massive thanks to the CF Team at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital) and supportive family and friends. I have experienced first-hand how new drugs and treatments can transform people’s lives.
I have also seen the impact of poor health and the daily struggle that accompanies it. Two years ago, my older sister Jo, who also had CF, passed away shortly after her 50th birthday after a career in teaching and ultimately an unsuccessful lung transplant. Jo was a kind, loving and inspirational sister and friend. As a family we were devastated by her death, which felt untimely so soon after the transplant she had waited so long for. It is the way in which she led her life with such passion and vigor that has driven me to take this challenge in my 50th year.
I have two younger brothers, one of whom also lives with CF. For many years it felt like research and treatment regimes were aimed purely at preventing deterioration and supporting compromised daily living. But science has since advanced to the stage where funded research can and does make a life changing and life affirming difference. Both my brother and I have been able to start families of our own thanks to scientific advances, again something we never thought would be possible.