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Living life to the max: the inspiring story of IPF-patient Terril McBride

What do you do when you get diagnosed with a disease like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)? A common response is to be sad and withdrawn, but Terril McBride chose a different path. She decided to live life to the max. So she swam her lungs out at the National Senior Games for athletes aged 50 year and older. ‘I swim every day. I feel better when I swim.'


Terril McBride finished in sixth place overall in the women’s age 60-69 division 50-yard freestyle of the American National Senior Games in Birmingham. This is at least remarkable for somebody with her medical history. In fact, it is miraculous that the 66-year-old lady stood on the starting blocks at all. Because of IPF, her lungs don’t function as they should and the condition will be fatal to her eventually. ‘My expected lifespan with IPF is three to five years. I was diagnosed two years ago, so I’m doing pretty well,’ she says with a smile. Her family is badly affected by the disease; McBrides’ father and a brother died of IPF and another brother is suffering from it.

She decided not to throw in the towel, but to live life to the max 

Nevertheless, she decided not to throw in the towel, but to live life to the max: ‘My ordeal is part of my life, and I’m all for living. I’m getting busy living.’ Swimming, she decided, would bring her the most. As a young child she already started competitive swimming until she was fifteen and then picked it up again when she was in her early sixties. Then she swam once a week, and IPF made it a daily activity: ‘My lungs want to shrink and scar until eventually you just asphyxiate. You can’t get enough air to live. I figured that swimming would make them stretch out all the time, every day., because to swim, you have to expand your lungs so much. And indeed, for me it works like that; I feel better when I swim.’

Maintaining a positive attitude in life, McBride explains, is also facilitated by her caring and supportive husband. He stands by her in the best possible way: ‘He said about the national senior games that it isn’t about winning or medaling. You are lucky to be here. He mostly wants me to have fun with it. And he’s right. But, I’m competitive as well.

I really like to do well and I will always try to get the best out of it