Melissa Benoit

Balancing My Life with CF: Using Exercise to Deal with My CF

Soon after I was born in 1963, I was diagnosed with CF. My parents already knew that four of my older siblings had CF and my younger sister later tested positive for CF. They had ten children and since six of us have CF, my parents were busy.  Very.  According to CF statistics back then we all were supposed to be dead by three years old.  Well, thank God my siblings and I are still here and this is my story about using exercise to help manage my CF.

I enjoy running because it fits my lifestyle, budget and I don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. A few years ago I decided to join a local running club which led to running a few 5kms, 4 milers, half and full marathon races.  Presently, I’m not training for any races and really enjoy most of my runs. I try to run four times a week and do weight and core exercises on my non-run days.

When I am training, it’s a challenge to put in the time, effort and discipline, and balance that with my family life.  Signing up for a race is a great way to stay motivated to run.  For me, the fear of not finishing or not doing well can be somewhat “inspirational” to train well!  Even in inclement weather I’ll often try to run anyway.   It’s the hot humid days that can be the most challenging, both physically and psychologically, especially on speed-work days.  I tell myself to just get out and run even a little, but often I’ll run the whole route.  I try to run early in the morning especially during the summer before it gets too hot.  Sometimes I wonder if I push myself too hard because I have CF, conversely I can use CF as a crutch to justify not going for a run.  Another motivator is running with others, which makes me more accountable to show up and run and the run is less monotonous. 

It works best for me if I run first thing in the morning, sometimes proceeded with an Ensure Plus and a banana and then do my mask after my run.  I know my run times are a little slower if I don’t do my mask first because my lungs are a more congested, but my run is completed earlier and I still clear my lungs when I do my mask and physio after my run.

Running helps me improve my FEV1 scores, stay out of “Club Med”, maintain a positive attitude and keep my bones strong because I also have CF related osteoporosis. One day I’d like to qualify for the Boston Marathon.   Another priority is to obtain meaningful part/full time employment locally so I can bike to work and still balance my responsibilities as a husband.

I am grateful to my wife Leila who’s never missed a clinic visit with me and lovingly cajoles me into taking my meds. I would also like to thank Preyanka Abhyankar and the staff at St. Michael’s CF clinic for the opportunity to tell this part of my CF story.  The staff is top notch for medical care and I am sure they’ve added a few years to my life…. not sure if I can say I’ve done the same for them…

Dean Cruikshank