A TEENAGER with cystic fibrosis is determined not to let her condition get in the way of her life.
Jess Harrison, 15, of Shelley Close, Stamford, was diagnosed with the genetic disorder when she was 18 months old and has been undergoing treatment for it ever since.
She has to take enzyme tablets before every meal to help her digest her food and must use a portable nebuliser twice a day to aid her breathing.
But far from letting the condition get the better of her, the Casterton Business and Enterprise College pupil has used it to spur her on to live a full life.
She said: “When I was diagnosed my mum, Katy, was quite scared. I was the first person on either side of my family to get the disease and my parents didn’t know anyone else with it.
“As I got older they told me I had to do everything I could to live to my full potential. With the drug I was taking, Creon, people of my generation only had a life expectancy of 35, so my parents wanted to push me to develop my goals.
“But a new version of the drug has given me a life expectancy of 60, which doesn’t sound old but is actually really good.
“I have always got the thought in the back of my mind that I am not going to live a long as everyone else, so I want to make sure I put my stamp on life.”
Jess has developed a range of interests and makes sure to keep busy every day of the week. On Mondays she performs with the Stamford Youth Theatre, and is taking part in their production later this month.
On Tuesdays she helps out at a brownies group for her Duke of Edinburgh award and does the same with a guides group on Thursdays.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays Jess works at The Crown in Great Casterton, which she combines with her job at the Tuk Tuk food stand in Red Lion Square, Stamford, on Saturdays. And on Fridays and Sundays she plays tennis at Ketton Tennis Club.
Jess’s condition sometimes means people try and discourage her from taking part in more physical activities. But she knows her limits and is keen prove what she can do.
Jess added: “People are sometimes scared and try to restrict me but I know I can do it. My school has been really supportive. They have treated me completely normally.”
Year 10 pupil Jess is already planning her future, from further education and a career to a family. She said: “I have everything set out, I would love to go into law or politics and I am quite determined. I would like to go and do A-levels at Bourne Grammar School.”
Jess’s positive outlook on life has been recognised by Professor Andrew Bush at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, where she has been treated her whole life.
She is one of five people asked to write a 1,000 word piece on her experiences dealing with cystic fibrosis for a handbook for others with the condition.
Jess also has a busy social life alongside her school and extra-curricular activities. She added: “I make sure my condition doesn’t get in the way.
“All my friends know and they respect that I might not be able to go out at certain times. But I am always going round friends’ houses. I think I have got quite a good life.”