“I’ve Lived My Whole Life With Cystic Fibrosis — This Is How Sport Helped”
In partnership with adidas
When adidas locked onto the idea of ‘Sport has the power to change lives’, they recruited five of our most-loved WH fit family to headline the campaign: PopUpGym’s Letshego Zulu; Mapule Ndhlovu, Cara-Lisa Sham, Carmen Crous and Tracey-Lee Lusty. Whether sport changed their destiny or their health, eased their demons or vanquished their grief, their collective stories are so incredibly inspiring, we decided no amount of sharing them would be enough…
Carmen Crous was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was 13-months old. It’s a progressive genetic disorder that causes a build-up of sticky mucus in the lungs, leading to chronic lung infections.
Since then her daily routine has been characterised by hours of treatments and popping pills. Her treatment plan includes several rounds of inhaled antibiotics, VEST therapy for 45 minutes in the morning and evening, a range of tablets including digestive enzymes, vitamins, cortisone and anti-fungal medication.
While Carmen’s rigorous treatment plan helps clear the mucus on her lungs, continuous exercise plays an enormous role in improving her lung capacity too.
Throughout her schooling years, Carmen’s parents always encouraged her to participate in a variety of sports. She tried out everything from swimming to gymnastics and eventually competed at provincial level in athletics and hockey during high school. “I’ve always been very competitive and loved taking part and getting the thrill of winning,” she says.
At the age of 17, Carmen tore her cross ligament. Her injury impacted her ability to do sport both competitively and for relaxation purposes. “It devastated me and I could see the emotional toll it had on me,” she recalls. As her participation in sport declined, so did her health. It was only when she began recovering from her injury that she began feeling happier again. She also had more energy to be active during the day. “It was almost as if I needed that break to prove to me how important sport is in my life and how big of an impact it has and will always have in my life,” she explains.
Exercising often takes a back seat when Carmen finds herself hospitalised as a result of her Cystic Fibrosis. “The last year has been a very hectic one regarding hospital stays. I’ve been on intravenous antibiotics for weeks at a time this year,” she explains. The antibiotics affect her energy levels quite drastically so she avoids exercising to preserve her energy for her studies. The only activity she does is her daily physical therapy, which includes squats and climbing the stairs. “Every time I get admitted to hospital or find it hard to be active, I miss the feeling,” she says.
After her inactivity in the hospital, Carmen has to motivate herself to start exercising again. “The beginning is always the hardest until a routine is created,” she explains. To motivate herself, she remembers how beneficial exercise is to her overall health and well-being. “I mostly exercise to feel good and healthy. The post-exercise feeling is the best and that’s what keeps me going – to get that feeling every day.”
Her favourite exercise is walking. She prefers walking in nature, enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air with her two dogs. “My lungs don’t like marathons – but they can do short and explosive exercises or long and relaxed ones,” explains Carmen.
Aside from keeping her lungs healthy, exercise has become the outlet Carmen uses to work through her frustrations. Exercising has helped her deal with her emotions in a positive way. “I never feel the need to sit in a corner and feel sorry for myself, because I have too much to be thankful for and exercise assists in avoiding those self-pity emotions.”