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Man Living with PI Competes in Triathlons, Strives to “Be Better”

Before This Sunday, 25,000 athletes will run the 2013 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.* One athlete is a man living with primary immunodeficiency disease (PI), determined to promote awareness and encourage others to “be better” through triathlon.

Like many living primary immunodeficiency, David Brumley looked healthy but spent years battling infections. He was diagnosed in 2008 with Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID)—no IgA, low IgM and no antibody response to infection. The 39-year-old was physically dormant with low strength and energy. A turning point came when his 3-year-old daughter Tarryn asked one night, "Dad, when are you going to be sick no more?" He heard, "When will you have the energy and life to be there for me?"

Devastated, David decided to “be better.” He decided to train with his wife Angela for a sprint triathlon—even though he had not run or swam in years. This was the start of an incredible journey for David.

“I went from the normal endless string of sickness and infections to the fittest I have ever been,” he explains. David has incorporated fitness into his daily life and has competed in two sprint and eight Olympic triathlons, two half Ironman as well as a half marathon and marathon, both in Dallas. For this Dallas Marathon, he is a member of the relay team for Behringer Harvard, his wife’s employer, and he will run the final (and longest) leg of 6.5 miles. “I joke that they gave the sick guy the longest leg,” he says.

All kidding aside, David has been feeling good, receiving weekly subcutaneous immunoglobulin therapy while balancing exercising and taking care of himself. “It's easy to spend a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself, hoping that someone will get it and do something big that fixes everything for you. Triathlon has taught me to accept the limits of my body and figure out what I can and can't control. Then focus on controlling those things … I put together what I call my matrix of health. What are the critical things to my health? Sleep, exposure, fitness, nutrition and stress. If I can keep these in check, I can stay above the fold. It has become my medicine to manage not only my disease but also my life with CVID.”

He still, however, has difficulty fighting infections, but he got into triathlon looking for a way to feel better and found that he was better, “I gained a better outlook on life, more energy and a renewed involvement in my family. Triathlon is a journey not unlike life in that it requires a slow progression, delicate awareness and absolute determination. You just have to start with where you are, not where you want to be and find the path that will get you there.”

David is launching a campaign called TriForBetter as a way to inspire others, raise awareness of primary immunodeficiency and raise support for IDF. He explains, “IDF has done so much to provide incredible resources for patient support and education that I wanted to find a way to communicate with the general public in terms they would understand.”

He plans to race as many local races as he can while targeting an Ironman in fall 2014. “I have never wanted to do an Ironman because it has taken so much to get my body to adapt to the training required to get where I am. However, I am now ready to lay it all on the line in hopes that I will be able to reframe the public’s perspective of primary immunodeficiency and inspire some people along the way.”

In triathlon it is common to develop a mantra to recite when the going gets tough. David came up with, “I do this to be better.” Even though he may not feel better when he is biking up a steep hill in 100 degree heat, he repeats his mantra, and it works.

David says, “I will never win a race. That is physically impossible. However, if I can inspire others to muster up the strength to push through the rough patches, then that is a win in my book.”

He has definitely inspired his family—his wife will also run on a relay team in the Dallas Marathon and their daughter will happily cheer them on!

You can follow David’s journey towards an Ironman at www.facebook.com/TriForBetter. Best of luck to David, Angela and all athletes in the Dallas Marathon!

*The 2013 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon was cancelled due to inclement weather. David is waiting to hear if it will be reschedule. He looks forward to continuing his training for an Ironman next year!

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