A man with cystic fibrosis who admitted he was ‘ready to let his disease take his life’ has defied all odds by becoming a bodybuilder.
Jared Wells, 22, from Denver, Colorado, was diagnosed with the genetic disorder when he was two years old, but says it didn’t start to affect him until he was around 13.
As a teenager, his condition started taking its toll on not only his physical health – by preventing him from playing sports and doing the kinds of things his friends were doing – but his mental health too.
Jared admits that living with cystic fibrosis became too much for him during his teenage years, with the knowledge that he couldn’t do the things he wanted having a devastating impact on his mental health.
Speaking to UNILAD, the 22-year-old said:
When I was younger, around five to 13 years old, it didn’t really affect me. I was just like any other kid – running, playing sports and all that, but as I got older it started to make those tasks harder.
Later on it really started to affect me, not just physically but mentally as well. I started to think that there was no point in taking care of myself and just gave up.
One year ago, things had got so bad with the bodybuilder’s mental health that he was ready to ‘completely let go’ and had prepared himself to die.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the genetic condition affects more than 10,400 people in the UK. The disorder causes the body to produce thick mucus, affecting the lungs and digestive system and making it difficult for a person with cystic fibrosis to breath.
As such, those affected by the condition often undergo a rigorous daily treatment regime including: physiotherapy; oral, nebulised and occasionally intravenous antibiotics; and taking enzyme tablets with food. Some people will also need to have a feeding tube overnight.
Jared began thinking there was ‘no point’ in looking after himself anymore, and in January last year decided to stop doing so with the intention of letting the disease take his life.
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Constantly I'm reminded of how much easier it would be for me to just go back to my old ways. When I didn't care about anything and just let go of everything. . When I moved out to denver I saw things going differently. It definitely is not what I planned. And that's really put me in a bad place mentally. . I just keep telling myself that I must keep going and that i can't stop. Sometimes that's all you can do. Almost everything never goes as planned. That's why you have to adapt and overcome. . I truly apologize for not posting or engaging with ya'll. I promise I'll do better and be better cause I know there's alot of people looking to me for inspiration and motivation and I don't want to let ya'll down! . Also shoutout to @imaginekaizen for the awesome shirt. It was definitely something I needed to see! #teamjared #bodyalive #1stphorm #iam1stphorm #1stphormathletesearch #motivation
The 22-year-old said:
In January of last year I had told myself that I was ready to completely let go and let my disease take my life. I had talked with my mom and doctor about it and discussed hospice care. The very next morning I don’t remember much, but I guess I had called my mom and told her I needed to go to the hospital.
On the way there I was told I was hallucinating and once we got there I was put on oxygen immediately. The doctors told me later that if I had waited any longer I wouldn’t be here today.
Making the decision to transform his life and remembering a promise to his late grandfather that he would look after himself, Jared began taking care of himself again and decided that he wasn’t ready to give up.
Explaining how bodybuilding saved him, Jared explained:
I decided I wasn’t giving up. A few months later I had gotten in touch with an old friend just to see how he was doing. Then he asked me if I wanted to go the gym with him the next morning at 6am. I’m still not sure why, but I said ‘yes’ and just never stopped going.
Jared took up bodybuilding almost immediately and after training at what he describes as an ‘old school bodybuilding gym’, and fell in love with the sport.
The gym had banners of everyone who had trained at the gym that had gone on to become a professional bodybuilder, and Jared knew immediately he wanted his picture up there with the rest.
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Amazing chest day today!💪 . Possibly one of the best I've had. With some not so flattering pics 😅. I'm gonna drop the routine for you guys below 😉. . Bench press: 65×12, 95×10, 105×10, 135×8, 145×4 Incline bench: 65×10, 95×10, 105×10, 115×6, 115×6 Flye machine:95×10, 105×10, 115×10, 120×6, 120×5.5 Superset w/ pushups: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10 . Use whatever weight works for you! Make sure to eat a good meal afterwards too lol. . #teamjared #iam1stphorm #chestday #exerciseroutine #sayitwithyourchest #1stphormathletesearch
Since taking up the sport, Jared says he has seen an ‘unbelievable’ difference in his health; his lung function is better than it was a few years ago, which he says is unheard of when you lose as much as he had.
The 22-year-old has received support from all over the world, with his Instagram account having more than 54K followers and says without their support and the support of his family, he ‘for sure’ wouldn’t have made it to this point.
Ben Mudge, a 28-year-old fitness coach from Belfast has also made fitness a vital part of his cystic fibrosis journey.
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#inspire . I have my #cysticfibrosis clinic tomorrow. I am not superhuman as much as I would love to be 😂 . I won’t lie I get super anxious about these every time I go to these now! . #cysticfibrosis sucks so much! I do what I can to show the positives and you guys help me so much! All the messages and photos truly help me on days like tomorrow! . #thorsday #cysticfibrosis #inspire #educate #educateandinspire #benmudgefitness #fitness #fitnesswithcf
Ben started training at 16, when his dad bought a little multi gym for their garage. As a small and underweight teenager, he wanted to put on muscle in the hope that he could look like his favourite superheroes.
Now though, Ben says his fitness journey is ‘so much more than that’; with 105K followers on Instagram, he is inspiring hundreds of thousands of other people to do the same thing.
Speaking to UNILAD, fitness coach Ben said:
The main thing for me, that keeps me going on days that I don’t want to go is the fact that, by me going, I’m giving these kids and these parents of kids with cystic fibrosis the role model that they deserve.
I’m giving them the role model that I wanted when I was younger, and that is all the motivation I need. You can’t be motivated all the time, but when I’m not really feeling it that’s what really gets me going – the fact that I’m doing this for more than just myself now.
Both men are at different stages of their fitness journeys, but the thing that keeps them going is the thought of other people in similar situations to themselves.
And Ben’s advice for anyone going through the same thing? Be consistent, turn up, and put in the work – and be patient at the fact that what you’re doing is going to work.
To find out more about cystic fibrosis, you can visit the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s website.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).