Jerry Cahill said he wants kids with cystic fibrosis to know that they can live a normal life.
Cahill, 62, was diagnosed with the chronic illness at age 10 – and six years ago he received a double lung transplant.
On Friday, two days after his 62nd birthday, Cahill set off on a 100-mile bike ride from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where he began treatment back when it was Schneider Children’s Hospital, to Montauk.
“[I want to] show people with cystic fibrosis that you can do things … you can be normal you can bike, you can swim, you can run,” Cahill said.
When Cahill was first diagnosed, the life expectancy for children with cystic fibrosis was about 16 to 18 years.
Cahill, and his parents, didn’t let his diagnosis stop him from living his life. He went on to play football, basketball, baseball, running and pole vaulting throughout his life.
“We want parents to realize that your son and daughter, they’re normal and they should get out there and live a full life,” Cahill said.
The ride to Montauk is the first of 50 century rides Cahill said he’ll be doing throughout the rest of 2018 and 2019 to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis and treatment.
Cahill was sent off on his ride surrounded by Cohen staff, as well as patients and parents of patients fighting their own battles with the disease.
One patient, Kate Sneddon, shared a similar story of fighting her illness with an active lifestyle.
Sneddon, 23, from Wantagh, was diagnosed at age 2.
She got involved in sports quickly after, she said.
Her mother lied about Sneddon’s birthday so she could play soccer, after Sneddon saw her sister play and wanted to get involved herself.
Sneddon has been running around ever since, she said.
Not only does exercise help Sneddon combat her symptoms of fatigue, clear her airways and fight off chronic lung infections, it also helps her not isolate herself which can happen to people fighting chronic illnesses, she said.
“An active lifestyle gives me the opportunity to fully engage in life,” Sneddon said.
Sneddon was able to fight her illness to go away to college, travel Europe and pursue her doctorate in physical therapy.
Sneddon said she can’t put into words the feeling of relief she gets when she gets one deep breath – which exercise helps her achieve.
“I genuinely want that for every cystic fibrosis patient,” Sneddon said. “Even one deep breath a day, it’s peace and it’s freedom, and I’ll forever be chasing that moment and … hopefully helping other people chase that moment.”