I am fighting one of the longest battles known in terms of a genetic disease. Incurable, Cystic Fibrosis slowly shuts down your organs, your lungs and digestive system. I was born with a collapsed lung and spent my first five months in hospital, a start like this in life, no one would have predicted that I would go on to trek in Vietnamese jungles, climb mountains and run competitively by the age of 18.
I wasn’t diagnosed with CF until after my brother and sister had been told they had the same disease. At the age of 13, 6-foot-tall and a healthy 80 Kilos, this surely was a mistake. I was in shock. Even though my attendance at school was below 60% due to chronic chest infections and constant stomach issues, it would never have occurred to me that I had a genetic illness. As much as I believed that it was poor luck, I realised whilst growing up that I had to do up to two, or three times as much exercise as my friends to keep up with their level of fitness. Coming to reality with disease I learnt to understand what I was fighting, and how to keep winning the battle.
Keeping a high level of fitness and a clean diet keeps my condition under wraps. I have used my CF to motivate me beyond achieving my goal, it has been the driving power for me to achieve my own personal greatness. Keeping track of medication has always been difficult, trying to keep a clean diet whilst consuming up to 5000 calories to stay fit and healthy can be a challenge itself. In most CF cases, an average person would have to consume up to 50% more than an undiagnosed person in order to keep their body functioning at a normal level. Back in October 2015, I ran the Great South Run in Portsmouth; three days later I was climbing Scafell Pike in the Lake District whilst consuming an average calorie amount. As my digestive system couldn’t regulate my calorie intake, a couple of days later I was medicated for compact stomach syndrome. Illness aside, I was pleased to raise over £1000 for the Starlight Foundation. This race was the catalyst in understanding my condition, respecting it, but never letting it limit what I can achieve.
Since that race, I have managed to understand my body better and have competed in multiple races in 2016 without dramas. Being able to understand my condition and medication has always been key, yet my circumstances have often made it difficult. Carrying up to 4 extra kilograms of medication on treks or expeditions can be exhausting. On my DofE Gold Expedition, I needed to try and ensure I’d be nebulising my medication twice a day and creating an extra 20 minutes between cooking and setting up camp has taught me to be more efficient than others around me. It was later in July 2016, on a Sixth Form expedition in Vietnam that this was more of an infuriating issue- having to do medication that was drying my mouth out in 40C degree heat wasn’t the most enjoyable. Let alone not keeping regular bowel movements out in the jungle where many insects and animals are very interested in you.
With 2017 underway, I have many more challenges planned. I am currently the organising leader of a three peaks team in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, helping to fundraise for a charity working to beat CF. In June I shall be trekking the Western Himalayas through a work scheme, and I am hoping to catch a glimpse of Everest, you never know, possibly a future goal. The small goals are as important as the peaks in life, day to day routine. Another goal on my list is to get the award for Runners Run of the year with my small local running club, only a handful of the club runners will see me get given this handmade, wooden yet inexpensive trophy. Even still, if you create a goal for you then you are the one getting the gratification from it, from Everest to the small running club trophy.
I have certainly gained support and attention from doing the things I love whilst fighting Cystic Fibrosis. Many people have asked ‘Why you!?’ or ‘are you angry for being diagnosed? My first initial thought has always been that life could be a thousand times worse than it is. I could be in a much worse condition than I am currently in and CF has opened my eyes in many ways. I often reply: ‘like everyone, I have my angry and upset days; you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t’. Whether you have Cystic Fibrosis or not, I believe it is important to be grateful for what you have and make the most out of today, because you aren’t always promised another.
If you were as moved by Jago’s story as we were, you can visit his Justgiving page below and help raise money to fight CF