Isabelle Ijams - Arizona Nomination by Michelle Ijams Photography by Tia Benson Issue 72 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Isabelle Ijams is inspiring because she doesn't let anything stop her from achieving her dreams, even a life threatening disease. Isabelle was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic life threatening disease that affects the lungs and other organs. She does treatments daily and takes a ton of medicines to just stay healthy. She has chosen to be in clinical trials for the past 4 years to help other people with cf. Even through the over 100+ hours in the hospital, blood draws and many tests, she still continues to smile and help those, including her sister, Aria, fight cystic fibrosis.
Photography by Tia Benson
What do you wish people knew about having cystic fibrosis other than the medical terms? Having cystic fibrosis is not fun. It is exhausting and difficult. Fighting to breathe everyday wears down the body and mind. The daily treatments include nebulized medicines and 30 minutes using a vest, that shakes and squeezes my body to get mucus out. I take many pills daily and all this when I am healthy. When I am sick, I have to triple my treatments which can take over an hour and a half a day.
Tell us about the clinical trials you've participated in. The clinical trials are something that I do to help researchers find a cure for this disease. I don't want any other kids to have to suffer. The clinical trials are usually 6 hours long with appointments every week to two weeks to monthly. I have an EEG, pulmonary lung function test, sweat test, and they take lots of blood work. It is a long day but I know that I am helping researchers and the cystic fibrosis community.
What else would you like to talk about? Having cystic fibrosis is very isolating because we cannot be around others with cf for fear of spreading infections that could be deadly. But this summer I was nominated to be the Southern Arizona Teen Advocate for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I was able to tell my story to Senators and Governors from California and Arizona. It was an amazing experience and even more amazing because I got to meet other teens with cf on Zoom.
What is the hardest part of having CF and how do you get past it? The hardest part of having CF is the unknown. We don't know how the newest medicine or treatment will work or if there will be side effects. We don't know if I will get seriously sick and end up in the hospital and for how long. We don't know if there is a person with CF sitting next to us at the movie theater that could make me really sick. The unknown is hard but living my life to the fullest everyday grateful and blessed is very easy.
Photography by Michelle Ijams
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? All my life I have been fighting just to breathe every day. Being born with a genetic life threatening disease is devastating but I have fully accepted it and vow not to let it run my life. I have been in 4 clinical trials in the past 5 years. Over 100 6-hour appointments at the hospital, over 100 blood draws, and other tests. It is hard mentally and physically. But I do it for everyone who has cystic fibrosis but most importantly, I do it for my younger sister so she doesn’t have to fight so hard to breathe.
What do you feel passionate about or could talk about forever? I am very passionate about dance. I have been dancing since I was 3 years old and really credit dance to keeping my lungs healthy and strong. Dancing and performing is one of my favorite things to do. I am on my high school pom team and dance competitively at my studio. I have been trained in ballet, jazz, contemporary, modern, hip hop, ballroom, acro, and musical theater. Being up on stage or in front of a football crowd is my happy place. A place where I can express my emotions and forget about everything else.
What is your dance studio like and what do you love most about being in it? My dance studio is my second home and everyone who dances there is family. There is so much love, support and respect between everyone. My director, Brendan Kellam, pushes me to be the best dancer I can be and is one of my best friends.
What is a favorite accomplishment from dance? My favorite accomplishment from dance was at a local competition this past year. I had some devastating news an hour before going on for my solo. I focused and went out on stage and danced my heart out. I left the sadness and anger from the bad news on the stage. I ended up with the highest award at the competition!
Photography by Michelle Ijams
How did you find your photographer, Tia Benson? What was your experience like? What did you love most about it? My amazing photographer is my cousin, Tia Benson. She flew out from Minneapolis and surprised me with a senior photo shoot. I had no clue and ended up screaming and crying with excitement. Having my cousin, who is like my best friend, take these photos was so special. We laughed so much and had the best time!
What is up next for you that you are super excited about? I am hoping to be attending the University of Arizona as a dance major. I am so excited to take my dancing to the next level and learn and grow at the university.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans? I see myself graduating from college and starting my own dance studio with my sister. I want to travel the world with my best friends.
3 Things on your bucket list Travel to Paris Open my own dance studio Dance on stage with a musician during a concert
Look for Isabelle in issue 72 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!