When Katie Schwalbe’s older sister was diagnosed with Alpha-1 in 1995, she blew off getting herself tested – just because her sister had some health condition, why should she have it, too?
Schwalbe even started smoking again.
But when she decided to apply for a welding job and failed the respiratory exam, she changed her mind about getting a test for Alpha-1. In 2003 she was diagnosed with Alpha-1 at 37 years old. Her FEV-1 score was 59%, and—even though she quit smoking—over the next to two years it dropped to 47%.
Eventually, Schwalbe decided she needed to take control of her life. “I learned that I have to live my life. I can’t let Alpha-1 own me – I have to own it,” she says.
She learned about Team Alpha-1 and got in touch with the team’s coordinator, Mary Pierce. She began biking with Team Alpha-1 and has been participating in hikes and treks to raise awareness ever since.
Schwalbe recently participated in the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago’s Hike for Lung Health on Sept. 23 in Montrose Harbor, IL, just months after receiving treatment breast cancer. But she is foever determined not to let cancer or her Alpha-1 slow her down.
Schwalbe is a firm believer in these events. “It gives Alphas hope,” she says. “We can’t expect other people to fight our battles if we don’t fight them ourselves.”
Also, to read Katie’s blog, click here!