Andy Lipman never thought he'd live to be 38-years-old. Then again, he likely never imagined he'd raise over $1.5 million to fight Cystic fibrosis (CF), the disease that was supposed to have already claimed his life, either. On July 4, Lipman will run in his 16th consecutive , an event that has been a catalyst for his well being and ultimately helped himself and others fight CF.
Lipman, an Atlanta native and Buckhead Toastmaster, was born in 1973 with CF, a genetic disorder affecting most critically the lungs, and also the pancreas, liver, and intestine. Some of the hallmark symptoms of CF are poor growth and poor weight gain despite a normal food intake, frequent chest infections and coughing or shortness of breath. Because of symptoms like these, Lipman was never supposed to live past his teens. As a struggling, skinny teenager, he eventually found his saving grace in exercise.
Once Lipman began his fervent schedule of working out and running he didn't look back. He recently completed the grueling P-90X program and has lifted as much as 300-pounds. Perhaps nothing has been more motivating to Lipman, however, than the Peachtree Road Race. His uncle has now run the race over 30 times, which caused Lipman to get the itch to run the 10K as a kid.
To Lipman's doctors, running the Peachtree Road Race seemed like nothing more than an unattainable dream. Lipman set out to prove them wrong.
"In the heat with all those people you wouldn't think Id be able to do it," Lipman said. "It was a big accomplishment for me to do it once."
Lipman said that even after the success of running the race for the first time, he refused to let himself get complacent. He even went so far as to not let himself wear the famous road race t-shirt he was given because he knew he wanted to run again. Now, after this year's race, he will have run it 15 more times.
"I wanted to make sure I did it again," he said.
It is that dogged determination that has also enabled him raise an enormous amount of money to fight CF through a foundation he started called "A Wish for Wendy" — named after his sister, who passed away from CF 16 days after she was born.
The "Wish for Wendy Foundation" has raised about $1.5 million in 13 years, which has been used by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for research toward finding a cure. Lipman holds fundraising events in Atlanta and around Buckhead, as well as the main fundraiser that is held annually in Alpharetta. Lipman, who has also now authored three books about CF to raise money for the cause, said he is hopeful that his efforts are bringing those suffering from CF closer to a cure.
"I do this to remember Wendy and to help the kids that are fighting this disease today," he said.
Lipman said that the mental toll of living with a terminal illness is often hard to bear, yet at the same time he realizes just how lucky he is to have the life he lives everyday. He and his wife, Andrea, have been married for 10 years and have two children — Ethan and Avery.
"I can't take anything for granted and I have to be happy with what I have - all the things in my life," he said. "Life is worth living."
Thanks to modern medicine and other forms of care, life expectancy with CF has jumped to 37. Now at age 38, Lipman said this is the first year he has been ahead of the life expectancy of a CF patient. With that fact in mind, the 2012 AJC Peachtree Road Race, held on July 4, represents more than the country's independence, it represents his own freedom from CF.
"For me it's my Independence Day," he said. "Its my Independence Day from CF to show that I can beat it. Those 6.2 miles are a lot bigger than just the 10K."
All Lipman's efforts work toward one goal, that CF will someday stand for a different phrase — no longer "Cystic fibrosis," but "cure found."