Xtreme Hiking for Cystic Fibrosis

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Dr. Shelly Zavala at the peak of Mount San Jacinto during an “Xtreme Hike” charity event for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation last month.
— Photo courtesy Shelly Zavala ©

Have you had one of those moments in life where it feels like the world has stopped spinning? Nothing else seems to matter except for what you are experiencing in that moment.

I remember when my daughter was born and there were some complications. I wondered if I would ever see life outside of a hospital again. I was lucky, I was able to find a normal sense of being within a year. However, many parents are not so lucky.

Last month, I was part of a group of people who hiked from Idyllwild to the top of Mount San Jacinto for an “Xtreme Hike” charity event for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

To be honest, I was pretty ignorant about this disease. Before the event, I read up on cystic fibrosis and it humbled me to my core. It caused me to instantly stop in my tracks and rethink my minor medical issues.

The hike was not easy and I questioned myself, “What was I thinking, doing this?”

Due to the altitude, I often struggled to get a breath. It was a tough 15.5 miles.

Hiking up the mountain, for me, depended greatly on my mental attitude.

As we gained altitude it became more difficult to get the oxygen I needed, making my body want to stop hiking and head back down. I can understand when people are struggling with any physical alignment, they sometimes might want to give up. Fighting is not easy.

Finally, I reached the peak. I sat down and enjoyed the view from the top.

About nine hours later I was relieved to take my shoes off, sit down and recuperate. However, for people with cystic fibrosis, it’s not that easy. Their lives are a constant struggle in so many ways. Every day they have to find both the physical and mental strength to get through their daily routine.

My fellow hiker, Paul, has a daughter with cystic fibrosis. He and his wife, Debbie, have done everything they can to assist her in living her best life. Yet, they also know that it will be shortened.

I respect what Paul and Debbie do for their daughter, and for others. They spend nearly every spare minute of their day doing everything they can to assist others who have the disease, as well as help CFF improve methods to manage the disease.

Hikers on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Orange County “Xtreme Hike” in Mount San Jacinto State Park near Idyllwild.
— Photo courtesy CFF

That eye-opening weekend left me wanting to ensure that I don’t take what I have for granted. It is so easy to focus on our own problems that we have to deal with, that we get stuck on our own struggles and sometimes forget others.

When we can truly sit in appreciation of what we have, it allows us to have more compassion for others. Being humbled is hard sometimes, yet it sure puts things in perspective.

There is a lot we can do to help. What might seem like a small action to ourselves can make a big difference to others. If we all do our own part, what a difference it would make in this world.

When I think of these families that deal with cystic fibrosis, and in particular Paul and Debbie, I think of this quote by an unknown speaker: “A meaningful life is not being rich, being popular, being highly educated or being perfect. It is about being real, being humble, being strong and being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others. It is only then that we could have a full, happy and contented life.”

For more information on the Foundation, visit cff.org. For more information or to participate in an Xtreme Hike, contact Stephanie Chavez at (949) 390-5912 [email protected].

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