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Meet All in for CF Scholarship Recipient Mark Stackrow

Born with CF, Mark was inspired to build his future after his mother’s lung transplant

Growing up, Mark Stackrow never considered attending college. Like his mother, he was born with cystic fibrosis (CF) and maintaining his health was his top priority. But in 2015, his mother had a double lung transplant – a life changing event that instilled in both of them a new sense of possibility.

“After my mom had her transplant, I was inspired to go to college and build a life for myself,” said Mark, who is now 20 years old and a student at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. “My mom encouraged me to take classes at the community college so that I could prepare for my future, and from there, opportunities began to open up for me.”

Mark is among the first class of recipients of Vertex’s All in for CF scholarship. He spent the past two years at Hudson Valley Community College, where he worked hard to earn strong grades and pursue a four-year college degree. He is now studying business management at Endicott.

Sharing a disease like cystic fibrosis with his mother, who was also a single parent, was a bonding experience that created unique challenges when he was growing up, Mark said. Having CF herself, she was acutely aware of the harm of missing any of his treatments, and took pains to ensure he was always compliant.

But when Mark was a teenager, his mother’s health declined and she was frequently hospitalized. During these periods, Mark and his sister were often left in the care of family members. To support her brother and her mother, Mark’s older sister joined advocacy and support groups for teens affected by CF.

“When my mom was in the hospital it was a struggle for us, because we were always worried if she was going to be okay,” Mark said. On top of this, he could not visit her in the hospital because of the risk of infection.

Mark’s experience caring both for his mother and for himself has instilled in him a sense of responsibility to the CF community.

“To me, being all in for CF is more than just doing my treatments and living my life,” Mark said. “Being born with CF, I feel that my role is not just to take care of my health but to move outside my comfort zone and get involved in spreading awareness about the disease.”

As he pursues his studies, Mark continues to be inspired by his mother, who after many years of struggling with her health, is now feeling stronger and is able to pursue a career again. “I went to visit my mom in Arizona, where she now lives, four months after her transplant,” Mark said. “And we went on a four-mile hike at high altitude. That made me feel like anything is possible.”

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