“It's a pretty blessed life when you get to do exactly what you love.”
These are not words you would expect to hear from the lips of someone who has battled cystic fibrosis for much of their life.
You would also not expect a person with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes respiratory difficulties, to become a competitive athlete, let alone an 11-time winner of one of the most grueling athletic competitions in the world.
But the remarkable Lisa Bentley beats all expectations.
And ever since she introduced an IQAir clean air system into her home years ago, she has, in spite of cystic fibrosis, continued to live life to the absolute fullest.
Living with cystic fibrosis
Born in the Canadian town of Etobicoke, Ontario in 1968, Lisa Bentley wasn’t diagnosed with cystic fibrosis until she was in her early 20s. This is unusual, as most people with the progressive disorder receive their diagnosis by the age of two (1).
Cystic fibrosis impacts the body’s mucous membranes, which leads to a thickened mucus that causes inflammation and blockages in tissues and organs (2).
In the lungs, the mucus can obstruct the airways, sometimes to the point of respiratory failure (3). Cystic fibrosis also increases the likelihood of respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, scarring of the lungs, and collapsed lungs (4).
A diagnosis of cystic fibrosis is never happy news, but Lisa felt fortunate that she received it at an older age than most because at the time, she was contentedly ensconced in college.
She recalls, “As long as I could do my schooling, do my sports and hang out with my friends, life was blessed.”
Contrary to what might seem like common sense, her cystic fibrosis medical team never discouraged her from taking part in sports.
“It was good for my lungs to be fit and active,” reports Lisa.
So she took the general goal of “being fit and active” and literally ran with it.
An unlikely profession
Lisa started with Olympic-distance triathlons, but once she tried an IRONMAN triathlon at age 29, she was hooked.
“It was the greatest thing in the world. I could exercise all day long,” she expresses with the infectious optimism that pervades her personality.
Compared to an Olympic triathlon, an IRONMAN’s swim distance is almost a mile longer, the cycling distance is nearly three times longer and the run distance, a full marathon, is over twice as long. It is one of the most prestigious and difficult competitions in the world.
At the time she took the plunge as a full-time triathlete, Lisa was also a full-time teacher. Juggling the two pursuits led to an uptick in illnesses. When she told her cystic fibrosis doctor about it, the doctor suggested she fully concentrate on athletics.
Lisa took her advice.
Looking forward to her first big race, the IRONMAN Canada, Lisa recalls, “I was super excited to be out there all day long.”
And that excitement carried her through a remarkable career.
A healthy lifestyle, including healthy air
Not surprisingly, Lisa is a big proponent of making other healthy choices besides exercise.
That is why, back in 2015, she and her husband, who has severe allergies, acquired the HealthPro Plus air purifier from IQAir – to help ensure that the air in their home was as healthy as can be.
After placing the air purifier in their bedroom for the night, Lisa relates, “We noticed the difference right away. It was unbelievable. Our house really became a sanctuary. That IQAir system was just a game changer in our home for keeping the pollutants down.”
This focus on a healthy lifestyle clearly paid off. Besides winning 11 full IRONMAN races, Lisa won many more competitions in her 20-year career, finished in the top five several times at the famed IRONMAN World Championships, was selected for multiple Canadian national teams, including one for the Pan American Games, and was inducted into the Triathlon Canada Hall of Fame in.
As Lisa sees it, each race in that long remarkable career served a dual purpose: keeping her mind and body healthy--and providing others with cystic fibrosis the encouragement to achieve goals that might have seemed impossible.
As she puts it: “It was a double blessing!”
Not slowing down
After retiring from professional sports, Lisa ran in a few marathons and charity races but most of her time was, and still is, spent on being a motivational speaker, a television, sports commentator, and a triathlon coach. And she even found time to write a book.
Lisa is also part of an organization attempting to make the sport of professional triathlon more mainstream, while enhancing the experience for amateur athletes and attracting more people to the sport, especially kids.
As for kids with cystic fibrosis, she recommends “100 percent” getting involved in athletics.
“It doesn't have to be running or biking or swimming,” advises Lisa. “For most kids that have cystic fibrosis, it's going to be team sports because they're in grade school. Joining a team, being with other people, being outside - the benefits to the lungs are going to come.”
Lisa notes that typical therapies for cystic fibrosis don't give the endorphin rush that athletics do, or the added, and all-important, increase in self-esteem.
“I just want kids to get out there and do sports. It's so important,” she states emphatically. “Motion is lotion. We all need it on so many levels.”
As for her chosen sport, she says, “Triathlon sporting events allow each competitor to get fulfilled in a way that in normal day-to-day is pretty tough. To actually feel that sense of fulfillment, of finishing something that you never thought you could, is enormous. I just love when people do what they think is impossible. It brings me an incredible amount of joy.”
Lisa reports that her health is good, and she is feeling great. Plus, a new drug, Trikafta, which treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis, has raised her spirits even more (as if that is possible).
That sunny outlook shines brightly as Lisa summarizes, “We can find a blessing in anything. I have always said that cystic fibrosis allowed me to win 11 IRONMANS, which is a shocking statement because I do a sport where your lungs are your engine. But I can either call myself a victim of cystic fibrosis or I can use it to empower myself. I decided that I was going to be empowered. “Sport has allowed me to feel like I can do anything. It’s a blessed life.”
Lisa recently had the IQAir PerfectPro X Whole House air purifier system installed. “And it's unbelievable. I feel incredibly lucky to breathe clean air.”