Cystic Fibrosis is an incurable, life-shortening genetic disease which affects roughly 70,000 people around the globe. Commonly thought of as a childhood disease, photographer Ian Pettigrew was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 37. Late diagnosis is relatively rare, but advances in medical technology over the past few decades also mean more and more CF victims who were diagnosed as children are surviving into adulthood.

Ian Pettigrew is a Canada-based photographer who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as an adult. He's currently rasing money for a portrait photography project to raise awareness of adults living with CF in North America. 

Based in Canada, Ian Pettigrew is currently trying to raise money to support a project entitled 'Just Breathe', which will feature portraits of adults living with CF. Pettigrew is aiming to raise at least $35,000 and funds will be put towards expenses related to the project, with a portion of the money to be donated to various Cystic Fibrosis charities. 

We spoke to Ian about the project - our questions are in blue.

What is your background?

I am a photographer and art director living in Hamilton, Ontario. I specialize in fashion and portraits.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting children and young adults. There is no cure. The persistence and ongoing infection in the lungs, with destruction of lungs and loss of lung function, eventually causes death in the majority of people who have CF.

How has CF changed your life?

I was diagnosed very late for this disease (at 37 years old) and I am lucky that my symptoms - for now - are not as severe as many. But it certainly makes me look at life in a different way.

But there are others not as lucky as me. Many of these people, adults like me, need a lung transplant to survive. Psychologically, you have to ask what that does to a person - knowing you're probably not going to make it to 50 years old.

Why are you starting this project?

It’s not so much for me, but for those being born right now who will hopefully benefit from the ongoing research. A cure for CF is possible. People with this disease are living longer, and the public needs to know that CF is more than just a childhood illness.

Why are you focusing specifically on adults?

Photograph what you know best, right? Adults with CF deal with a whole host of other problems that children with CF might not, especially those like me who have been diagnosed far later in life. Anxiety, depression, quality of life issues, substance abuse … all of these are extra things that many deal with on top of the direct symptoms of the disease itself.

What do you hope to achieve?

I want to raise the awareness for adults dealing with CF. Money raised to allow me to pursue this project will get the book published, and hopefully there will be enough left over for donations. So I aim to raise money and awareness, AND hopefully also get people to sign their Organ Donor Cards.

You can read more details (and support the Just Breathe project) on Ian's fundraising page