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Member spotlight: Cathy Stephens on asthma and Ironman

Posted on: August 10, 2013   by  Vitamin D Council


Each month we publish a blog highlighting a member, putting them in the spotlight. We discuss their background and why they’re interested in vitamin D. To see all member spotlight articles, click here.

This month we’re featuring member Cathy Stephens. Cathy has fought severe asthma her entire life and after years of struggling with medications, asthma attacks, and being told she can’t exercise, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Cathy has always been adventurous. She had a nagging interest in being able to compete in triathlons, although she always wrote off that possibility because of her asthma. This all changed when she volunteered at an Ironman race (a type of super triathlon), and she decided she just couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore.

So she began training for a triathlon despite her severe asthma, and although it wasn’t easy by any means, she eventually began competing in them.

When Cathy started to progress from short distance triathlons to endurance race distances, she started to pay more attention to nutrition, to see if it could both help her manage her asthma and improve her athletic performance. She began supplementing with omega-3s, vitamin C, and antioxidants.

When talking to a doctor about nutrition, vitamin D came up. He explained, “Asthma control isn’t always about having your meds on standby and taking them the moment you feel the telltale signs of an impending attack. It’s about having your body’s defenses ready to help fight off an attack on its own, with or without meds. And one of the most important parts of that defense system is vitamin D.”

cstephensSo Cathy started taking vitamin D.

“It is absolutely amazing to me how much of an impact this one powerful vitamin has on the body and in so many capacities.  From asthma to obesity to brain health,” she explains. Cathy noticed she could now run races without her emergency inhaler, although it was always on hand. With her “magic formula” – as she calls it – dialed in, she decided to sign up for an Ironman race.

Unfortunately, due to a full blown asthma attack, Cathy had to cut her first Ironman short. But she wasn’t going to stop there. She continued training and fine tuning her health and on June 24th, 2012, she completed an Ironman race without touching her inhaler. 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles cycling and 26.2 miles running!

Cathy attributes her success to hard work, nutrition, and the motivation to prove her doctors wrong with the idea that she can’t take her body to extreme physical limits due to her health condition.

Cathy has been a Vitamin D Council blog member for a little over a year. Although she isn’t a health professional, she enjoys talking with people about the health benefits of vitamin D. She constantly refers friends and family to the Council’s website. “I love the clear and researched information that the blog provides.”

We want to thank Cathy for participating in our member spotlight blog series.

To read more about Cathy’s experience as an athlete with asthma, check out her own personal blog

6 Responses to Member spotlight: Cathy Stephens on asthma and Ironman

  1. Rita and Misty


    Yours is an amazing story, and I am so glad it was shared here. I admire you greatly for your tenacity to “prove [your] doctors wrong with the idea that [you] can’t take [your] body to extreme physical limits due to [your] health condition.” So many others would have been tempted to given up to their asthma.

    I agree with you about vitamin d and just how much of an impact this one powerful vitamin has on the body and in so many capacities. I like to think of it as the master hormone.

    I’m so very grateful that you shared your story here, and that the Vitamin D Council is running these monthly highlights.

    I have decided to start saving each and everyone of these awesome (awesome) VDC members’ stories and compile them into a scrapbook to help me with my outreach in my community. After all, it is much more convincing to share 1,000 stories rather than simply my one story.

    I hope that the VDC will permalink all the members’s stories into one section, so that members can take a cyberspace field trip in the future to reread these wonderful testimonies to the power of D whenever they may be in doubt!! Recently, due to a friend’s illness, even I had such doubt! And, rereading blogs and articles on this website saved my faith.

    Unfortunately, I’m constantly being asked by those I talk with to “prove” that vitamin D is truly the essential nutrient I say it is…and not some hopeful “bottle of dreams.”

    For those who are scientifically bent, I do share Pubmed journal articles; however, not every one has such a leaning. Some people like the anecdotal; and just how many times can I share my one story before it becomes quite boring?

    So Vitamin D Council THANK YOU for this wonderful new addition to the members’ blog. It will be so useful to me.

    And, Cathy, I again commend and applaud you and your tenacity. You deserve an award in my humble opinion.

    Be well,
    Rita Celone Umile
    [email protected]
    (203) 785-6269
    Or, join my on the Vitamin D Council Facebook page (my healthy addiction)

  2. [email protected]

    Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your story and vibrant picture!! You are so beautiful & look so good, I posted you on my page to be an inspiration for the many asthma sufferers among my friends & family. When I traced my own asthma story, I realized for the 1st time that it is 100% correlated to VD levels even though as a former psychotherapist, I look for the psychosomatic connection.
    Thank you again for your courage & persistence!! YOU ARE A WINNER!!!!
    Continued blessings,
    Marianna Love

  3. Rita and Misty

    It is true Cathy, you are radiating health, which is always the best beauty of all.

    You are especially lucky that your doctor pointed you in the direction of vitamin d. And, that you are an open person, willing to consider something other than standard drugs.

    Marianna, today a coworker of mine, who had been told for weeks now that her tiredness, insomnia, muscles aches and general sadness, was finally diagnosed with vitamin d deficiency. The institution of my employment uses 20 ng/ml as the reference for sufficiency. Goodness only knows just how deficient this woman really is, as the actual number wasn’t shared with her for some reason…. However, the docs were SO concerned about her deficiency that they requested she immediately commence D3 supplementation of 1,000 iu D3 daily. I guess she will continue to be ill…

    Cathy congratulations again, not only on controlling your asthma and competing in the Ironman, but on being open to alternative ways to strengthen your body’s natural immune defenses.

  4. Rita and Misty

    Sorry Marianna, I left out an essential part to my above comment–the gal was told all her symptoms were psychosomatic–when in reality they are related to vitamin d deficiency.

  5. rbentley

    A very inspiring story, even for someone who has never had asthma. I hope this doesn’t sound too petty, especially after the other great comments, but I would like to suggest that you change the word “contributes” to “attributes.”

  6. Cstephens

    Thanks everyone! I am PASSIONATE about spreading the news that asthma and so many other diseases do not have to control one’s life and that you can lead a normal, active and even crazy adventurous life if you want to. I appreciate your comments. Feel free to follow my blog as I document my adventures and overcoming asthma along the way. There really is a better way and Vitamin D has been a huge part of that. Go get it!

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