As a mom with cystic fibrosis, I couldn’t climb the ladder without a break. A double lung transplant changed my life – and helped me run a marathon.

Every weekday morning for years, I’d drop my two daughters off at school and kiss them goodbye, not knowing if I’d come back to pick them up.

I was born with progressive, persistent cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that causes the body to produce thicker-than-normal mucus in the lungs, making them more susceptible to infection. It also led to digestive issues, and I was at risk for organ damage.

While medication and physical therapy can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life, many people with cystic fibrosis do not live beyond 40. My condition had deteriorated so much by the age of 30 that I needed oxygen 12 hours a day and was on the waiting list for an operation. Lung transplant.

It was my only chance to see my kids grow up, but it was like a weight hanging over me.

I was ready for the call

The call can come from the hospital at any time. I kept a suitcase packed in the lobby, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I previously led an outdoor lifestyle and loved exploring the countryside with my girls. But it got to the point where I had to stop to take a break while walking up the stairs in my house. I couldn’t work or go out shopping or socialize, and I was in the hospital the whole time.

It wasn’t easy as a single mom. I was fortunate to have my parents living close by and a great group of friends to support me.

As a mom with cystic fibrosis, I couldn't climb the ladder without a break. A double lung transplant changed my life - and helped me run a marathon.
Davidson with her daughters. 
Courtesy of Robyn Davidson

In November 2013, I was put on the transplant list. It was my only hope, but it was a really stressful way to live. I received four frustrating false alarms as I was sent home again because the match wasn’t quite right.

I had to be honest with my daughters about what it might mean to have a transplant, and my younger self developed separation anxiety. I even wrote them letters for their future birthdays so they will always know how much I love them.

You finally found a match

When another call came in in July 2015, I assumed it was going to be another false alarm. So when I got to the hospital and was told this was real, I started shaking.

Emotions were overwhelming. I knew my life could change – or I might not survive the surgery.

The operation took nine hours. When I came, the pain was great, but I quickly felt a change in my breathing.

After a month in the hospital, I went home to continue my recovery and boost my strength. Seven months later, I walked a fair distance and decided to run.

I always saw joggers on the street and in the park and told myself I’d try it if I had a transplant. It wasn’t easy. I followed the Couch to 5K program, which normally takes nine weeks but took nine months. I’ve never run before – I didn’t have any of those muscles that most people develop when they’re younger.

My friends asked me where I found the motivation, and I told them it was from not being able to run for so long. I enjoyed the fact that I could finally do it. I was given this gift, and I didn’t want to waste it.

I signed up to run a marathon

Two years ago, I decided to apply for the London Marathon. It always felt like a pipe dream – but when I got a place, I knew I had to give it a try.

During a difficult training session, my thoughts would often turn to what life was like for me before transplantation and to my donor and his family. It motivated me to keep going.

On October 2, 2022, I joined 42,000 runners – including 10 people with cystic fibrosis – at the London Marathon start line, to raise money for the cystic fibrosis fund.

The atmosphere was incredible. My name was on my shirt, and people were calling out as I ran past; I had a big smile. My daughters, Sophie, 20, and Phoebe, 15, were in the crowd cheering and cheering me as I walked toward the finish line.

I did it in 4 hours, 53 minutes, and 33 seconds, well under the target time of five hours. I think I also ran a further 26.2 miles where I kept running to five.

To manage these gastrointestinal symptoms and to prevent the immune system from attacking donor organs. It also gives me some sinus and arthritis issues, although running has really helped my knees. But I live a pretty normal life now – something I could never have dreamed of.

I hope that one day a cure will be found and every person with cystic fibrosis will have a chance to make their dreams come true, whether they’re running a marathon or watching their kids get married.


Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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