Athlete Name: Karen Passalacqua Maciariello
Hometown: Saratoga Springs, NY
Education: MS School Psychology
Tell us a little about yourself
I am a 43 years old single parent to an amazing 9-year-old boy Gabriel and a
Sweet mini golden doodle Ruby who keeps up active and lifts our spirits every day.
Gabriel is my inspiration and motivation to keep moving and running. I didn’t know I had cystic fibrosis until I got pneumonia at 34 years of age. At first, doctors thought I had tuberculosis, but then later discovered I was suffering from a rare infectious disease called micobactrium avium. I was hospitalized twice for 4-7 days each time dealing with 103 fever. Soon after I was given a sweat test and diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in March of 2012.
Prior, I had a healthy childhood and for the most part a healthy young adult life with the occasional bronchitis.
I was born and raised in Italy. My parents born and raised in the Bronx moved to Italy in the 70’s. I have one older brother. My family is my world.
I am bilingual (Italian and English). I lived in Rome and Milan Italy. I was very athletic growing up. I played varsity volleyball basketball and tennis. I also skied, sang and loved all things art related. I still ski, draw and sing on my free time.
“I run to be involved in as much of my son’s life as I can be."
I moved to New York for college where I continued to play volleyball all 4 years. I then attended grad school and now I am a school psychologist for a middle and high school in upstate New York.
After I was diagnosed with CF, I decided to get into running. I ran my first half marathon in the fall of 2013 and I have run over 15 half marathons. In 2016, I was hospitalized with Hemoptysis. I had to stay in the hospital and be treated with IV for a couple of days.
Despite that set back, I continued to pursue running events.
I accomplished my ultimate goal…I ran in the 2017 NYC marathon with the Cystic Fibrosis Breathe Team. That was an amazing accomplishment and a day I will always remember. Especially seeing my son cheering me on along with my friends and his dad. My emotions were running high and I can’t even begin to put into words the exhilaration I felt.
Running is my form of airway clearance. Diagnosed in adulthood has been trying physically, emotionally and mentally. There are pros and cons to later diagnosis. Pros = symptoms progressing later in life, and still feeling like I can do anything; that I am unstoppable.
Cons= I have been hospitalized, lung function has declined in the last three years, and resistant to doing treatments (nebulizers) because they are annoying and time consuming and I’m not used to doing them. I have also been dealing with increased joint pain and fatigue. Denial is also a con not realizing the magnitude of what CF can ultimately do to my body.
Running is my most favorite form of airway clearance. My pulmonologist has given me his approval too!! He says running is a great airway clearance method.
I run as much as my body allows me to. I run to improve my lungs. I run to breathe. I run to be alive and to see my son grow. I run to be involved in as much of my son’s life as I can be. Being a single parent hasn’t been easy; split time with my son is the hardest and most painful challenge but I try to make the best of all time spent. My parents and brother live in Las Vegas so I have learned to ask for help from friends and neighbors. It is very humbling.
I am truly blessed and grateful for being as healthy as I am under the circumstances. Setbacks won’t stop me. If anything, they motivate me to work harder at being healthier. I don’t ever want to slow down. Some say I do too much, but when you have a life threatening condition, your mind and heart tell you to keep going and to be as active as you can be before it is too late.
Tell us what motivates you the most.
My son. I want to be around to see him play sports, to graduate, to go off to college and to see him pursue all his dreams.
I want to be involved in all aspects of his world :). I am also motivated to be a role model for others who are suffering from cystic fibrosis. I want people to know we can be strong and overcome challenges.
Why do you exercise? Tell us a little about your race day training.
Airway clearance. Unfortunately, I have had several setbacks this fall and winter that has impacted my training from an ankle sprain to getting diagnosed with the flu (despite getting the flu shot). I have had to go to physical therapy and been on medication to treat the flu. Fortunately, I am finally feeling better and back into training. May not be as strong as I had hoped, but I am still thrilled that I am back into running and so excited to run with Team Boomer!! Dream come true.
What is your pump song?
I have so many. But if I had to narrow down…
Here are my top:
One Republic – I LIVED!!!
Rocky IV Album -No Easy Way Out, The Sweetest Victory
Imagine Dragons – Mouth to the River
Rachel Platten – Fight Song
What is your best fundraising tip?
Share from the heart, be honest, be sincere.
Don’t be afraid to share your story because compassion generates from ones’ willingness to be vulnerable and to not fear judgment.
Social media, specifically Facebook, has been one of the best forums to reach out to many for support while also educating people about cystic fibrosis….