With a godly stature and long blonde hair, Ben Mudge bears an uncanny resemblance to popular Marvel hero Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth.
The 27-year-old personal trainer from Belfast spends his days working out in the gym, running a personal training business and collecting comic book merchandise.
But behind the muscles, Ben is living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic condition that affects tens of thousands of people for which there is currently no known cure.
One of the most common life-threatening inherited illnesses, the disorder affects 10,400 people in the UK or one in every 2,500 babies born, according to Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Mostly affecting the lungs, the disease can also have an effect on the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine with the average life expectancy of people with CF just 47-years-old.
Common long-term issues include breathing difficulties, poor growth, clubbing of the fingers and toes, coughing up mucus and infertility in men.
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Good thing about these nebs is it gives me time to just sit and think about how lucky I am in so many ways. – I can walk, I can talk, I can laugh, I can travel, I can breathe – Easy to lose sight of all the things you have when looking for all the things you don’t! Ohh so deep 😂 – Hope everyone with CF is taking their medication ⚡️ – #thor #cfstrong #strong #grateful #breathe #nebulizer #stronglungs #cysticfibrosis #sodeep #deepasapuddlemate
When Ben was born, doctors didn’t know he had cystic fibrosis at first but they knew something was wrong as he explained to UNILAD:
The doctor came along and said ‘there is something not right with him’ and that’s it now.
They weren’t sure if I was going to make it or not. I started losing my hair and everything.
Soon Ben was diagnosed with CF, a condition he will have throughout his life for which he has to take daily medication.
Ben could not just lie down and be defeated by his condition, he decided to concentrate on his health and fitness.
Not only did this help Ben’s lung capacity improve, but it kept him focused and it seemed destiny he would become a professional personal trainer.
For Ben, his physique is of the utmost importance:
I am an online coach and I don’t want people coming to me because of CF. I want people to come to me because I am in good shape.
The question I get asked the most is what keeps you motivated and it is simply because I know what I want, which is the physique that I have.
I never want to look weak, like I have CF. People ask me ‘can I do that’ because I have CF and I say ‘look at me, of course I can’. I can do whatever you can do. I think that motivates me the most.
When people hear about my CF they think I can’t. That is not right and not true. I can do more because I have way more fire in me than the average person does because of what I have.
You can watch Ben’s interview in full here:
When Ben started working out regularly, he felt his whole attitude towards his condition changed as he was intent on fighting it.
Leaving his condition ‘outside’ when he goes to the gym, Ben feels like he can just be himself without CF while lifting weights.
However, some days Ben does struggle to not let his condition take over:
Death is inevitable unfortunately but just because mine is slightly closer, it encourages me to do more things.
It can take one chest infection to shut me down. It is always in the back of my mind but that is where it stays.
People think I have this invincible attitude, unlimited motivation but I don’t. Some days I can’t be bothered going to the gym, or taking my tablets then two seconds later I think ‘what is my other option’? Then I feel okay and know I have to do this.
It is so easy to feel sorry for yourself and do nothing but the hard option and hard work pays off.
It feels like CF is always right behind me, it is my shadow and I just need to keep my pace. If I stop, even for a second, it gains.
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Happy #thorsday everyone – This weekend I have a photo shoot for the new #Thorsday t-shirts! Me and two little #cfsuperheros will be getting some photos to help raise awareness for #cysticfibrosis – The T-shirts will be available from @descendedfromodin next Thorsday! – #Thor #thorsday #cysticfibrosis #cfstrong #cfthor #cfheroes #marvel #fitness #belfast #coach
Ben inspires hundreds of others with cystic fibrosis, particularly children, thanks to his uplifting #Thorsday posts, another huge motivator for him.
Aware of his resemblance to the popular character from the hit Marvel Cinematic Universe films, every Thursday Ben shares a photo of himself, often posing with the famous Mjolnir hammer – and sometimes in costume – to let other sufferers know you don’t have to let the condition beat you.
The incredibly popular photo series has seen Ben’s Instagram grow and grow meaning, at time of writing (March 20), he now has over 65,000 followers.
You can watch the trailer for Thor’s next appearance in Avengers: Infinity War below:
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For Ben, his #Thorsday photo series and the effect it has on children is his ‘proudest achievement’.
Three or four weeks after I started doing them I was getting loads of pictures from kids who wanted Thor costumes, hammers etc.
I Facetimed all these parents with these kids who would run off and then show me their toys. It is so cute.
It has become more than just me. Kids wth CF look at Thor and connect the two together. And Thor isn’t going anywhere. If I die tomorrow it has extended beyond me which is amazing.
It is overwhelming and the sense of pride I get from that is beyond what I thought I could feel.
Without my CF this wouldn’t be happening. Instead of using it as a crutch, I use it as a weapon.
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You heroes DID it! – We managed to get @descendedfromodin to 15k followers! They are now donating £500 to the @cftrustuk this month! – I cannot thank you all enough for helping me and @descendedfromodin make a difference in the world! – Hope you have a great weekend! – #thankyou #thorthanksyou #thor #thorsday #mjolnir #descendedfromodin
Ben really is one of Earth’s mightiest heroes, he’s our own Thor.
To find out more about CF, you can visit the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s website.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.