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Katharine Schildt, 27, advocate and fundraiser, Federal Hill
Katharine Schildt was 16 when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes life-threatening lung infections. She was then told the average life expectancy at the time: 35 years old.
"My friends were talking about prom and college and I was thinking about how long I had to live," she said. "I suddenly felt very different than everybody my age."
Her life became treatment. There was the "vest," a machine that pumped air into Schildt's body to eliminate thick mucus clogged in her lungs. There were several inhaled medications, strong antibiotics to flush out the bacteria. In college, she would talk to few people about her CF -- and even stopped treating herself. Though she got another round of IV treatments senior year, she soon closed up again.
Now, Schildt is open. She was recruited by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to share her story at events and has raised about $20,000 for the organization. Schildt's blog, from A to Pink (fromatopink.wordpress.com>), became a place where she shared her conflicted feelings about living with CF and talked with other people who have he disease. She's an optimist but a realist. On her latest post, she writes about going back to the hospital for a two-week stint of IV treatments.
"For the first time in 10 years since my diagnosis, I feel like I'm staring down my future," she said, "and it's scary as hell."
But CF fundraising will always be a priority -- she believes a cure can be found in her life. And besides working full time as the managing editor at Wall Street Daily, a financial publication providing market commentary, she's getting married in October.
"The one big gift CF has given me is an appreciation of life," she said. "Life is short, and not always exactly how we pictured. But it's still beautiful." -Jordan Bartel
April 17, 2012