Cystic fibrosis is often a condition associated with often being so debilitating that sufferers have difficulty participating in sport and exercise. However a man battling the condition has managed to control his illness and become a champion bodybuilder.
James Boudreau, from Michigan in the United States of America, has a lung capacity of just 48% and is nicknamed ‘The Miracle’ by those in the bodybuilding industry. He made it his life goal to become a champion bodybuilder after healthcare experts and his doctor told him he could be dead within two years if he didn’t have the lung transplant he desperately didn’t want to have.
James was diagnosed with the debilitating condition when he was just three. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition, and James’ sister suffered from the same but died when having a lung transplant when she was just one year old. His younger sister’s death was the reason that Mr Boudreau was so reluctant to have a lung transplant, despite doctors urging him to.
When he lost 72% of his lung capacity after a motorcycle accident when he was just 26, James’ consultants said he would be dead within two years if he didn’t have a lung transplant, but James was reluctant after seeing what had happened to his sister.
Instead, he followed his dream to become a bodybuilder like other members of his family who didn’t have the disease. He swapped alcohol and junk food for weight-lifting and eating healthily – all of which started to build his fitness and strength and allowed him to slowly build up the amount of weights he managed to lift.
After changing his diet and after he began taking protein supplements, James’ lung capacity significantly improved – something the healthcare professionals he had spoken to didn’t think would happen to the extent that it did. By gaining weight through muscle and becoming strong enough to work out seven times a week for 45 minutes, it allowed him to increase his lung capacity to a moderately ‘safe’ 48 per cent.
“I have been very active all my life but my mid-twenties was a real rough patch. After the accident I’d lost 75% of my lung function, which was scary, because it came out of nowhere. I’d tried to compete and failed, but I knew that deep down in my soul I would live in a world of regret if I didn’t try one last time.” said James, “Becoming a champion bodybuilder was beyond a ‘bucket list’ type of goal, it was a must at any and all costs. My doctors weren’t happy about it but I told them how important it was to me and I went for it. I want to show people who also have this disease that anything is possible.”
“I have no real cardio capacity other than walking or playing tennis in short bursts, and if I go all out, I just collapse. I sometimes need oxygen at the gym as well, just to get through some sessions; I could collapse at any point when lifting weights.”
“Cystic fibrosis really doesn’t have an effect on my mental focus towards this goal, I like to think I can be the best – my biggest competition is my health.”
Cystic fibrosis causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with thick mucus, and there is currently no cure.