May 18, 2014 11:00 pm

‘Dancing with cystic fibrosis,’ an online fundraiser to help a Maple Ridge teen living with a genetic disease

“I have tattooed on my arm, music is my cure and that’s exactly how I feel when I am dancing,” says Maple Ridge teenager Ryan Morrissette. “I feel like I don’t have CF. I can just be myself.”

CF is short for a fatal genetic disorder known as Cystic Fibrosis.

When Morrissette was diagnosed at age two, doctors told him he wouldn’t live past age eight but he is defying the odds as a professional hip-hop dancer and going strong now at age 19.

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“I can have fun. It’s just the stage, the crowd, me. There’s no CF.”

There is no cure for the disease but his friends have started an online fundraising campaign that would help keep him dancing.

Cystic Fibrosis mainly affects the lungs and digestive system, filling up the organs with thick sticky mucus. Morrissette’s friends are hoping to raise at least $15,000 for an Airway Clearance Vest, a product that would loosen the mucus building in his lungs every day.

“It would cut down on the physiotherapy time that I take. I would just feel better and it wouldn’t take so long to feel normal.”

Morrisette currently spends at least an hour and half every day in physiotherapy to clear his lungs, but the $15,000-25,000 vest would take just 15 minutes to do the job.

“I’m up really late because I’m out for so long teaching and doing auditions and stuff. When I’m finally home it’s already 10 p.m., then I do the physiotherapy that’s like 11:30 p.m. Then I get to bed and I have to wake up at 6 a.m.”

“The vest – it goes on him, it fills up with air and compresses and shakes him – will loosen that and bring it all out, and then his lungs will be clearer,” says his mother, Teresa Morrisette.

When Morrisette was a child his mother would spend hours padding him down in an attempt to clear out his lungs. Without the routine, Morrisette says it feels like he is breathing through a “McDonalds straw.”

Part of the fundraising effort is the sale of a documentary about Morrisette created by his friend Danie Easton, who is spearheading the online campaign.

“I want people to be aware of what cystic fibrosis is. Even if you’re diagnosed with a disease there’s always hope and inspiration out there and Ryan tells that in an incredible way,” says Easton.

Cystic fibrosis is with Morrisette day and night but he does not let the disease define him. Instead, he dances his way through the pain so he can help others.

“None of us know how long we really have. I’d rather take the years that I actually have and make people remember me for the things that I’m doing and do something really well to help.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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