Athlete Name: Emily Brown
Hometown: East Branch, NY
Tell us a little about yourself
I grew up in East branch, a very small town in Upstate NY. I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 3 along with my older sister, Bethany Brown. During elementary school I spent recess playing tackle football with the boys. I could run fast, so they gave me the ball and let me run. I really fell in love with sports after that. For youth sports I played softball. Then during my junior high years I participated in soccer, basketball and track. The one thing people kept saying to me is, “You are so fast!”. This was funny to me because growing up Bethany and I had been in competition – from how much we weighed or how tall we were at CF checkup appointments and who could eat the most at Mcdonald’s. Bethany was always much faster and coordinated than I was so I felt a sense of accomplishment.
My first year of track the principal Timothy McNamara, also the varsity track coach, told me I had great potential to run for a Division 1 college in the 400 meter dash. After a very successful 7th grade track season, he thought it would be best to have me compete on varsity. After soccer season, I decided not to do basketball that year but instead focused on working out in the weight room. I gained 10 pounds that winter which helped me tremendously in track and resulted in a great report from the CF care team at the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York.
Throughout high school, I continued to play soccer as a striker and for my senior year as sweeper. I even played on the varsity basketball team one year to challenge myself, but track has always been my favorite sport. Early on in my 8th grade season, many coaches began to tell my coach I was going to be a special athlete and that the one lap race around the track would be my bread and butter, and it sure was. I weight lifted and trained over summer break and throughout the winter season each year. I would meet my coach at the track on weekends to get a workout in or go to his office during my study hall hour to talk about what competing at the Division 1 level would be like.
During sophomore year, I suffered a sprained ankle at a sectional meet. I was unable to run at State Qualifiers and had my chances of competing in the NYS Track and Field meet taken away. That summer, I went through many of hours of physical therapy to get back in shape to play soccer and run track. My junior year I won State Qualifiers in the 400 meter dash and had the opportunity to run at the NYS Track and Field meet in Syracuse, New York. I placed 8th in my division and 16th overall. I plan on returning this year with high hopes of standing on the podium to receive a medal.
Over the course of the 2018 summer, I received 43 recruitment letters, emails, and phone calls from different college coaches expressing interest in recruiting me. I was thrilled and began my college search. It was so overwhelming and stressful but after plenty of consideration I was able to nail down which college would be best for me. I’ll be attending the University of Albany in the fall of 2019 and can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life.
“Every time I run a race or finish a workout I feel like, I’ve accomplished much more than staying in shape. It makes me feel like I can overcome the adversity of being one of the 70,000 people worldwide who also have the disease.”
Tell us what motivates you the most.
My biggest motivator is beating CF physically. Recognizing how sports have kept me in shape and helped me remain healthy has also motivated me to continue to do my percussions and pills religiously. The saying, “CF sucks”, couldn’t be more true but if I have the potential to extend my lifespan by exercising and staying in shape, that’s what I’ll do. I have always told anyone close to me that I will never let CF hold me back. Not only does Cystic Fibrosis take a toll on your body, but it’s also very overwhelming mentally. Track has become a sport of solace for me to overcome the mental stress of the disease. Every time I run a race or finish a workout I feel like, I’ve accomplished much more than staying in shape. It makes me feel like I can overcome the adversity of being one of the 70,000 people worldwide who also have the disease.
Why do you exercise?
I exercise because I enjoy it and because I’m an adrenaline junkie. Weight training and running has always been a passion of mine. I’ve always been a believer that anything a man can do a woman can do also. It’s a great feeling when you’re told by other male athletes that you’re more muscular than them or maybe even stronger. For me, exercise will always be something close to my heart. It has kept my lung function high, and inspired me to want to improve on the track every day. Exercise will always be an outlet for me to work through the stressors of teenage life and my CF care as well.
Goals for the future
After attending college with a minor in Spanish and a major in biology, I plan to become a Registered Nurse pursuing a career as a Certified Nurse Anesthetist. I would like to live in New York City or possibly relocate to the west coast and live in California. Eventually, I’d love to start a small family of my own and experience what it’s like to raise children…yikes! I plan to continue exercising and potentially try to compete as a bodybuilder and do some fitness modeling on the side. I don’t plan on allowing Cystic Fibrosis to take a toll on my body until I am much older than the average life expectancy. No matter what happens in regards to my health, as long as I’m living a happy life with the people I love and care about, that’s all that really matters. Living a healthy lifestyle and keeping the people around you that keep you motivated and happy are the only things that should matter in this life. We can’t let the negative things in our life, including CF, determine how we live it.
Who is my role model?
In August of 2017, a man named Gerry Raymonda contacted my mother, Sandy Brown, and said he was competing in the 2017 Cycle for Life hosted by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He said he was reaching out to locals in the area who had Cystic Fibrosis and was asking them to sign his jersey, which he would wear on race day. We met in Walton, New York at Mcdonald’s. He and his wife, Stephanie, were so ecstatic to meet us and asked my sister and I to sign the jersey. He told us why he was competing and my heart was so touched. His sister, Jeanette, died from complications of CF at the age of 17 in November of 1972. Gerry had to deal with the loss of his sister at a young age and used that adversity to positively impact the CF community. To this day he uses every opportunity given to him to help raise money for those diagnosed with CF, including riding in his sister’s honor in the “Cycle for Life” fundraiser. I am so thankful for Gerry and his efforts to help raise awareness about Cystic Fibrosis. Gerry and Stephanie encouraged my sister and I to take care of our health as best as we can. He even took time out of his busy working schedule to take my senior pictures this year, and my sister’s last year free of charge. One day, I hope to be as passionate as Gerry is when it comes to raising money and awareness to find a cure for CF and to help make CF stand for ‘Cure Found’!