Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month

May marks a month for people to consider a disease that is unfortunately very much under the radar.

But it’s certainly one of the worst illnesses a person can endure.

According to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, cystic fibrosis can cause severe breathing problems in the lungs. A build-up of thick mucus makes it difficult to clear bacteria and leads to cycles of infection and inflammation which damage the delicate lung tissues.

Those with the disease must follow a demanding daily routine of physical therapy to keep the lungs free of congestion and infection. About one in every 3,600 children born in Canada has cystic fibrosis.

Each week in Canada, two children are diagnosed and one person dies from cystic fibrosis. Of the Canadians with cystic fibrosis who died in 2011, half were under 34 years old. There is no cure.

In the digestive tract, cystic fibrosis makes it extremely difficult to digest and absorb adequate nutrients from food.

Mucus blocks the ducts of the pancreas, preventing enzymes from reaching the intestines to digest food. Therefore, those with the disease must consume a large number of artificial enzymes (on average 20 pills a day) with every meal and snack to help them absorb adequate nutrition from their food.

Cumulatively, Canadians with cystic fibrosis spent over 25,000 days in hospital and attended CF clinics more than 15,000 times in 2011.

Symptoms include difficulty breathing, constant cough which expels thick mucus, repeated or prolonged bouts of pneumonia, bowel disturbances and a failure to thrive. Cystic fibrosis was first described as a disease in the late 1930s.

At that time, it was usually recognized only after a child died often as a result of malnutrition or pneumonia. About 60% of patients are diagnosed in the first year of life and 90% by 10 years of age.

For those with cystic fibrosis, life includes a daily routine of therapy and periodic visits to a CF clinic.

Otherwise, most lead normal lives for many years in terms of education, physical activity, and social relationships. Eventually, however, lung disease places increasing limits on daily life.

But the picture is improving.

Thanks to advances in research and clinical care, growing numbers of children with cystic fibrosis are surviving into adulthood.

In 1960, when the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was founded, a child born with the disease rarely lived four years.

Today, 60% of Canadians with cystic fibrosis are living into adulthood.

It’s important to bring awareness to a disease that affects so many people, particularly when others often garner so much media attention.

Locally, folks can help support the cause on May 26, at Pioneer Lodge (4323 46A Ave.) with the Great Strides Walk fundraiser.

Registration at 10:30 a.m. with the walk at 11 a.m. After the 3km walk a barbecue will be held as well.

For more information, call the local chapter at 403-347-5075 or 403-886-2384.