Guest post by UCLA Spirit Squad Battling Bruins. Thank you for the compassionate words and for understanding my struggle to breathe so wholeheartedly!
The ability to breathe... something that most people take for granted. The average person takes about 28,800 breaths a day. For people living with Cystic Fibrosis those breaths are not so easy, it will eventually be a painstaking struggle, the fight to breathe. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.
We would like you to meet our Battling Bruin, 23 year old Caleigh Haber. Just the fact that she graduated high school was a major life milestone, she was not expected to live past the age 16. From an early age, Caleigh's parents wanted to involve Caleigh in as many "normal" activites as possible. She joined gymnastics and cheerleading at a young age and competed at a professional level. She was a natural given her slight build and boundless energy. Her radiating smile drew people to watch her while performing, often in the spotlight as the cheer teams main "flyer". After graduating high school, Caleigh again defied the odds by movin to San Francisco to pursue her biggest dream of becoming a chef at the Le Cordon Bleu. Along the way there were set backs putting her in the hospital, but that only drove her to work harder at accomplishing a degree.
In order to succeed in this highly competitive career, Caleigh often worked 13 plus hours a day on top of her medical regimen. Waking up when it was still dark out to do her critical breathing treatments and staying up way past the point of exhaustion to be sure she was ingesting enough calories for the day. She shares that it was worth every second she was able to spend in the kitchen living her dream.
After Caleigh's externship, she began working as a pastry cook. The adrenaline and excitement of the fast paced kitchen brought her such passion that she would go home unable to sleep, waiting to get back into the kitchen. The feeling of accomplishment that the culinary environment would bring her while working is unimaginable to a non-foodie. Creativity, texture, temperature, taste; all the things my chefs in school would look for. Those are the things as time went by that forced her to strive increasingly harder to be the best she could.
With so much happening in her life personally and professionally, she had reached her peak at a very young age. Unfortunately that dream soon faded as Caleigh's health worsened. The damage done to a persons lungs caused by Cystic Fibrosis is not reversible. Many living with the disease will eventually need a double lung transplant. That is what Caleigh is hoping for now. This is a personal message from Caleigh directly, just to give a glimpse of her ever-positive outlook on life.
"My struggle makes me who I am..."
"My struggle makes me who I am. I take this invisible disease; naked to the uninformed eye for what it is and let it be. Now it's time with your support to enjoy life with all that it comes. To embrace the experiences and capture the moments, whatever they may be and fight through it. I've known pain, struggle, and defeat that others will never have to experience, nor should anyone. Cystic Fibrosis has made me the friend, sister, daughter, who I am today- I have accomplished many goals, but I am not finished yet, not even close. Please follow me on these social networks and help support my journey as I fight to breathe. Donate to help me rise and breathe."
She turned her can'ts into cans, and her dreams into plans."