What do you do when you’re a woman with cystic fibrosis (CF)—a disease that causes aches and pains, decreased breathing function and requires frequent doctor visits as well as daily lung treatments? If you’re 32-year-old Selwa Mitchell, you give birth (twice!), run for exercise and push yourself to reach your goals like all is well. This Murphy mom of Isabella (“Bella,” age 5) and Charles Scott Mitchell Jr. (“Mitch,” age 1) has a determination that makes her seem unstoppable.
Mitchell, a petite beauty with a vivacious personality, was the picture of health when I met her for this interview. Attempting to find a Red Bull energy drink, she admitted to being a little tired. Not surprising, considering she got up at 4am to begin her lung treatments.
“If I don’t do the treatments, I’m going to have a bad day,” she says. “So I just do them, and get it over with. My mental wellness is what really gets me through it—I think the best way to deal with it is to pretend like it’s not there, but do everything you can to make yourself healthy.”
Diagnosed with CF at age 3, Mitchell’s parents raised her to believe she was just like everyone else. “I think I’ve been really blessed because my parents raised me to believe that I had no limitations, that I could do anything. I think this is important for anyone who has a child with special needs.”
Mitchell, a former auditor and fund accountant, no longer works due to her disability. Though she misses her career, she’s not complaining—it gives her more time to spend with her husband, Scott, and their kids.
Kids. As in two amazing little people. Mitchell never wavered in her determination to have children, but it wasn’t an easy road. Her first pregnancy took its toll on her body, causing her already low lung functions to plummet. Once Bella was born, doctors advised against having any more children, but Mitchell had other ideas.
“I have a strong, strong faith, and that’s what drives me to do anything,” she says, “Why deprive myself of happiness? I knew I could do it. And [Mitch] made me healthier. My lung functions went up—he was just meant to be.”
So is there a light at the end of the tunnel for people like her? Though optimistic about an eventual cure for CF, Mitchell is also practical about the future. There’s a very real possibility that at some point, she won’t be there to raise her children (both of whom are carriers of the CF gene but do not have CF). She’s preparing to make a video for her daughter, to pass on tips she learned from her grandmother about treating others with compassion and always having a smile on your face. But hopefully she won’t need it.
“For me, what helps me really fight are my children. I look at them and think: I have to be there for them. I will fight every day to make sure I have lots more years to come.”