A man battling cystic fibrosis has managed to control his illness by becoming a champion bodybuilder - despite risking his life every time he lifts weights. James Boudreau has a lung capacity of just 48 per cent and sleeps with an oxygen mask at night to prevent him from contracting life threatening lung infections. But the 29-year-old, who is nicknamed ‘The Miracle’, made it his life goal to become a champion bodybuilder after doctors told him he could be dead within two years if he didn’t have a lung transplant.
Mr Boudreau, from Michigan, U.S., was diagnosed with the debilitating lung disease - which makes sufferers susceptible to life threatening viruses – when he was three. The genetic disorder also causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with thick mucus. There is currently no cure.
When he lost 72 per cent of his lung capacity after a motorcycle accident at age 26, doctors said he would be dead within two years if he didn’t have a lung transplant. But Mr. Boudreau, who comes from a family of body builders, was reluctant to have a transplant, as complications from the the same operation had killed his youngster sister when she was just a year old.
Instead, he swapped alcohol and junk food for weight lifting - and started building his strength – despite numerous doctors’ warnings that strenuous exercise could kill him. Miraculously, after changing his diet and taking protein supplements, his lung capacity increased. With the support of his wife, Amanda, 28, he began to gain weight and became strong enough to work out seven times a week for 45 minutes – allowing him to increase his lung capacity to a ‘safe’ 48 per cent. It was then he decided take part in body building competitions.He said: 'I have been very active all my life but my mid-twenties was a real rough patch.
'After the accident I’d lost three quarters of my lung function, which was scary, because it came out of nowhere. 'I’d tried to compete and failed, but I knew deep down in my soul that I would live in a world of regret if I didn’t try one last time. 'It was beyond a ‘bucket list’ type of goal – a must at any and all costs. 'My doctors weren’t happy about it but I told them how important it was to me and went for it.'
He added: 'I want to show people who have this disease that anything is possible. 'I have no real cardio capacity other than walking or playing tennis in short bursts, and if I go all out, I just collapse. 'I sometimes need oxygen in the gym as well just to get through some sessions; I could collapse at any point when lifting weights.'
Against all odds, James managed to scoop his first winner’s trophy in the junior lightweight division at the Flex Lewis Classic in Mursfreeburo, Tennessee – a feat previously deemed untenable. He now wants to compete in national body building competitions and intends to apply for an International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB) ‘Pro card’–the qualification required to become a professional body builder.
Mr Boudreau said: 'After the competition, I told my wife this would be the first and the last one. 'But after I won, she suggested a list of things I needed to do differently for the next competition. 'At first I was apprehensive, but with my wife 100 per cent behind me, I really genuinely feel I have a legitimate shot at becoming a pro. 'Cystic Fibrosis really doesn’t have an effect on my mental focus towards this goal, I like to think I can be the best, my biggest competition is my health.'
He added that growing up with the condition - spending weeks in hospital and missing school - was tough. 'When you’re a kid, you want to do anything and everything your friends are doing, so it was difficult for me being excluded from that 'I would find myself in the hospital a lot while in school or over summer break, birthdays, Christmas and even New Year.'
For more information visit the Cystic Fibrosis Bodybuilder's Facebook page.