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CFF Scholarship Winner Essay

Congratulations to Justin K. of Appleton Wisconsin for winning our Naag Tag Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Scholarship

this year!  He will be attending the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay as a freshman this fall, and studying business with a marketing emphasis.

2016-06-01-justin-khs-graduation-justin-khs-graduate-3 Justin at Graduation


Each year Naag Tag awards $1500 in scholarship money to a deserving student in return for their submission of an essay describing one of the following:

  • How we can help people with Cystic Fibrosis
  • How Cystic Fibrosis has affected you
  • How can you raise awareness or revenue for research of the disease

Naag Tag’s scholarship team was pleased with all the essays for this year's contest and personally read the essays that were submitted. It was obvious, when reading the entries, that CF has deeply affected many lives. Justin's essay in particular showed how CF has impacted his life both by the challenges it creates and the growth that can come by working to overcome those challenges.  We are pleased to share his essay with you now.


How Cystic Fibrosis Has Affected Me

The day I was born I was diagnosed with CF. The next morning I had 6 feet of intestines taken out, and spent my first 44 days in the NICU. I made it my goal as I grew up to never let CF beat me.

CF is a daily struggle, even as treatments improve. Each day, I take sixty pills to keep my body working as closely to 100% as possible. Many of my medications maximize food absorption, which is important since I am missing so much of my intestines. Each pill has a different purpose, and some have awkward tastes. They help me live and stay healthy, so I can’t complain.

I hope to keep getting stronger, physically and mentally, to defeat the disease which is a tremendously large part of my life. I run cross country and track, play in a basketball league, and play trombone. Because my lungs are so healthy, my pulmonologist lets these activities replace traditional daily lung therapy. My college has extensive running trails to encourage me to stay disciplined with my exercise program. Being an athlete gives me fun memories and lifelong friendships. More importantly, keeping my lungs healthy gives me a stronger base for when I battle lung infections down the road.

Pep band was also a college requirement, given the role my trombone plays in my health care plan. I became Pep Band Section Leader as a Sophomore and am First Chair as a Senior. I look forward to continuing my band career in college. Playing the trombone was a risky choice because there was no guarantee my lungs would enable me to continue long-term. I love playing, and I’m good at it, so I’m happy my parents let me go for it!

Along with the physical things I do, mental tasks make a difference. These include avoiding smokers and environmental pollutants; planning ahead to ensure I have the time and equipment to adhere to treatments; and remembering to take my pills wherever I go. Sometimes taking care of myself is a pain, but it’s important to follow this regimen to ensure that, if something were to go wrong with my health, I would have the strongest base possible to fight. Medical staff and evolving therapies can only do so much; it’s up to me to take charge of my health and do my part so the therapies can work and keep me healthy.

One thing I have learned through my battle is, things could always be worse. There is always someone with worse lung problems, or even a worse disease. I am grateful for my relative good health, and I raise more money for research for those who can’t do it themselves. I have been a Team Leader in our local Great Strides CF Walk since third grade. I was the keynote speaker, and my team raises over $10,000 annually. I am a proud member of the walk because through my own CF, I can inspire and help others. I enjoy actively engaging in the fight to cure this disease.

After high school, I plan to study marketing in college. I hope to pursue a career in advertising or promotion because I love to come up with ideas and look at things from a different angle. Regardless of what I do after graduation, however, my health and family will always come first. I have learned to take nothing for granted. My girlfriend has been a tremendous asset to me. She has made an effort to learn about CF, comes to clinic, and supports me mentally and physically. I can’t thank her enough for her support. Aside from my family and health, I would like to find a long-term career to become the best I can be. I want to work hard at what I do, but also love it so I can enjoy life.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand what CF was, or how it would impact my adult life. My parents did an outstanding job helping me have a normal kid’s life, and not worry about what challenges would come down the road. I do my best to keep myself as healthy as possible, because someday I might have a serious medical problem. In the meantime, I am thankful to my parents and doctors for where I am and how far I have come. From the outside, most people cannot tell I am sick. For those who know about CF, I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, but instead to work with me to fight this horrendous disease and kick its butt. I cannot wait to graduate and move into the real world to show everyone that CF won’t stop me, and to show what I can accomplish. I will never give up!

Thank you, Justin, for sharing your story with us.

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