sINgSPIRE : A Song for CF
Real 65 is a segment of Breathe 3-65 that is dedicated to entries and interviews sharing honest and personal experiences of living with, treating, and loving someone with Cystic Fibrosis.
It is a place for all those impacted to share their stories
My name is Ashley Ballou-Bonnema and this is my song for CF:
"The art of singing – it has been woven within every breath of my life for as long as I can remember. As a small child it wasn’t Bugs Bunny I watched in the morning but countless music videos on the original MTV. In those early days I would have never known just how much a love of singing and music would impact my life. How much it would give me life – literally.
Through my years growing up some incredibly inspiring and impactful people came into my life – instilling and cultivating the song that lived within my soul. Music became the very thing I could escape to when the unfairness of life whirled recklessly around me. I remember as a teenager being invigorated by the breath that would pass through my lips filling my lungs and then transforming that very breath into song. I followed that song to college where I studied vocal music and then onto graduate school for a Masters degree in voice. I sang - even when I was told it wasn’t possible. I sang – even when I thought it wasn't possible. I sang – always trusting the song that lived within me and knowing it was all part of something greater than myself.
Today I am a professional musician with a private studio of over 25 voice students. Little did I know all those years ago standing in front of a giant TV screen singing along with MTV just how much that love of singing would give me life. It’s only now after 20+ years and some difficult days that I am I finally able to see the impact of singing on my life and why exactly it’s something I’ve relentlessly clung to. It’s because my life has depended on it.
How does singing help me live my best life with CF?
Work. Work. Work.
My classical training challenges my respiratory system while also strengthening it. For me, I have found singing to be one of the most beneficial ways of airways clearance next to VEST treatments.
Here’s a glimpse into my morning warm ups with Kalvin. It’s important for me to get the air moving through my lungs and my body breathing deeply. After a nights sleep my lungs are tight and achy. A good morning warm up is filled with lots of exercises that sound like sirens, sighs, and scales - usually lasting a good 20-30 minutes.
Singing has taught me how to breathe deeply, and how to use the air I am given most efficiently. Focusing on deep breathing also lends itself to strengthening my core breathing muscles – helping me breathe better, cough better, and have a stronger core. Breathing deeply not only helps me with singing a phrase of music but it also helps combat anxiety I have related to CF.
Singing and being aware of my breath has instilled a great self-awareness of my respiratory system. It has allowed me to truly connect with my breath and in turn made me very aware of the slightest difference in how my respiratory system is working. This awareness allows me to notice any changes in my respiratory system - hinting at the start of an exacerbation or infection, sometimes even before I experience any other telling symptoms.
In singing I have found something that not only challenges myself mentally and physically but also fills me with great happiness. There is truly no greater feeling than feeling that air pass through my lips and exchanging it for a song. It’s my definition of happy.
I never could have imagined all those years ago as a young child, teenager, and even college student just how impactful singing would be in my life. I never could have imagined just how life-giving it would be. In conjunction with my regular daily medications and therapies singing has helped to keep me alive. It is my greatest hope to share that very love and the impact of singing with others affected by CF. Maybe it could change their life the way it has changed mine. This is my inspiration and passion for Breathe Bravely's sINgSPIRE."
To find out more about sINgSPIRE please check out the sINgSPIRE tab on our website: Breathe Bravely.