Living with cystic fibrosis and having access to only 50% of his lung capacity won’t stop Aucklander Josh Chase from achieving his goals.
Next Sunday 29 October, 30-year-old Josh, from Browns Bay, will once again take part in the One New Zealand 11km Traverse, part of the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Marathon.
He last completed this race two years ago, but that was before doctors had started him on a new treatment for cystic fibrosis, a drug called Trikafta.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. According to Cystic Fibrosis NZ, only half of those with CF in New Zealand currently reach 31 years of age. It is thought that Trikafta would almost double the life expectancy of those with CF.
“Before starting this new medication I was able to do this 11km run in about one hour 30 minutes. This year my aim is to beat that by 20 to 30 minutes. I have been training hard for this and I cannot wait to see how much I’ve progressed,” said Josh.
“I had completed this run once before, two years ago. This was before I started on my new medication that makes living with CF easier, so I wanted to do it again to see how much I have improved in this time,” he said. “Exercise has always been a big part of my life due to having cystic fibrosis, it’s an absolute must to keep my body in peak performance to help not getting sick.”
Josh has spent his life in and out of hospitals, with cystic fibrosis affecting him in numerous ways. Despite this, exercise has always been an essential part of Josh’s life. He is a personal trainer by day and also spends time in the gym strength training and outside running.
“Living with CF is far from easy. Breathing is difficult, a way to describe it is, imagine putting a straw in your mouth and then blocking your nose and trying to breathe through a straw. I also suffer reoccurring chest infections, which has eased up a little bit due to being on this new medication, and the consistent need to consume food due to not being able to put on weight.
“The mental health is hard to deal with as well. Depression and anxiety are a very common thing with people that have CF, as you are told from a very young age that you have a life expectancy of around the mid 30s in New Zealand, but this new medication is able to help extend that a little bit longer. It can be both mentally and physically draining,” said Josh.
To make things even harder for Josh, he only has access to 50% of his lung capacity.
“Because breathing in general is pretty hard, as soon as cardio exercise comes into play my chest tightens and it becomes even harder to breathe, so I need regular breaks or to slow down because my body just does not like it. But for me, pushing myself past that uncomfortable feeling is what I enjoy, I enjoy pushing my body to the absolute limit,” he said.
“My message for others living with CF is to get up and do some cool stuff, push yourself and your body to the limit. There is no shame in failing, the only shame is when you don’t even try.”
In spite of everything, Josh is happy and excited to get to the start line next Sunday.
He will join thousands of others as they are treated to the once-a-year opportunity to cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge on foot, with its stunning 360-degree views of the city, run through the CBD and to the electric finish line in Victoria Park to celebrate their achievements with family and friends.