She’s living with Cystic Fibrosis but Eleanor McAree continues to ace her fitness goals

Eleanor’s achievements have included several ultra marathons and scaling Mount Kilimanjaro

Despite being born with the life-threatening disease which can cause severe damage to the lungs, Eleanor’s achievements have included several ultra marathons and reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The 33-year-old is grateful for the strides in modern CF treatment that have supported her as she works hard on her fitness. She fell in love with running when her fiancé, Simon, encouraged her to take on new challenges as Covid first struck. “It was a disease that nobody knew anything about and it affected the lungs, and I had a lung disease,” recalls the Dubliner, who now lives in Greystones in Co Wicklow. “He (Simon) was coming back elated from all these runs. And I was feeling down and sad and not knowing what was going on.”

Like her partner, she too started upping her fitness challenges and the results have been transformative for her.

“I started getting the bug and what I loved about it was I could feel my lungs working. I was like: ‘Oh my God, I am strong. I am capable’. I just really started falling in love with running.”

Now Eleanor is backing a campaign for today’s World Lung Day, which promotes five steps – including physical fitness – to encourage members of the public to ‘Love Your Lungs’.

Eleanor, whose brother was also born with CF, has mostly been able to manage her disease, though it made her quite ill as a child and again late last year, and she frequently suffers from infections.

She says she has inherited her can-do attitude from her family. “They just got on with it. I went in for my checkups. And I, unfortunately, was a bit sick when I was a kid. But they didn’t make me think that I was any way different. I just kind of got on with life. They were very positive about the whole experience – and then seeing my brother getting on so well.”

“I got chest infections left, right and centre and I had to go into Vincent’s for checkups. I’d have an annual review, where they would do loads of tests. But again, I felt that was normal. I think for me, when it really hit home was when Covid came along – I all of a sudden was deemed vulnerable.”

Exercise and fitness challenges helped her manage it all, and has improved her lung health too. “(It was) the joy of running, and my lung function has gone up a significant amount since I’ve started running. The last time I went for my lung function test, it was the highest it’s ever been and that was a massive moment.”

In recent years, she and many others with CF have benefited from new treatments which scientists have developed for the disease. She and her sibling are currently taking a medication called Kalydeco, which is used to treat CF in some patients.

“I’m 33 now and my brother is 42, and both of us are the healthiest and the fittest that we’ve ever been. And only recently they say that they think that potentially in a few years, it might not be a life threatening disease, which is absolutely amazing to hear.”

Today is World Lung Day and the Irish Lung Health Alliance, a coalition of charities working to promote healthy lungs, has urged members of the public to take five steps to “Love Your Lungs”.

“Our message is simple,” said Dr Marcus Butler, Consultant Respiratory Physician and member of the Irish Lung Health Alliance. “Please take the five steps set out by the European Lung Foundation which will give you a head start on protecting your lung health long into the future.

“Whether it’s getting your vaccines, quitting smoking, limiting your exposure to air pollution, eating a balanced diet or being physically active – remember you are not alone. There are lots of reputable evidence-based information sources and helpful supports to assist you on your journey to better lung health.”

For further information, visit www.lunghealth.ie