Jared Wells, 22, from Utica, New York currently weights in at 160 pounds. For someone who is working towards competing in bodybuilding, this may seem small, but to Wells it is a huge accomplishment.

Wells has Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which is a genetic disease that affects the lungs, pancreas, and liver. People with CF have persistent and frequent lung infections, trouble breathing, and difficulty growing and gaining weight, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If these all seem like things that would seriously hurt your chances of becoming a bodybuilder, you’re not wrong, and Wells has heard them all before.  

Wells has lived with Cystic Fibrosis his entire life. He managed the diseases with a litany of different medications and treatments, but in January of 2018 Wells had grown tired of the extra amount of effort he needed to put in just to live. He began to set up a will and hospice care for himself with his family. Meanwhile he was partying with his friends while he was still physically able.

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“After so many years, I was kind of just sick of it,” he tells wbur.org. “You know, even if I did everything right, I felt like I was still going to get sick and I was just prolonging the inevitable. And I kind of just let myself go. I kind of just decided to enjoy my life to the fullest instead of doing what I need to do to prolong it.”

Neglecting his health finally caught up with him, with Wells having to be hospitalized because he was unable to breathe. After stabilizing and being released from the hospital, Wells realized he wasn’t as ready to die as he thought.

He began attending an old school bodybuilding gym owned by one of his friend’s fathers. When he first began training there, he weighed in a 117 pounds (Wells is 6’1) and had zero percent body fat.

Wells began going to the gym every morning at 6:00 a.m. to work with his friend’s father. He preferred going early to avoid the stares and questions from other gym goers about his body. But not too long after he started, he began seeing results. In the first three months of training, Wells put on 35 pounds. Long gone was the emaciated man on death’s door.

Working out also helped Wells regain some of his lost lung function, something rarely heard of in the CF community. Wells began developed a cult following online of gym enthusiasts and people affected by CF. Memes about his dedication to fitness sprung up on Facebook and on Reddit under the r/GetMotivated subreddit.

[Image] Thank you, GetMotivated! from r/GetMotivated

Since deciding he wanted to live, Wells moved to Denver, where the drier climate is easier on his lungs. He works in an appliance factory and is considering become an inspirational speaker.

“If I can inspire someone to take control of their life or, you know, do something more with their life, that’s everything,” he says. “And then being able to show my mom that everything she did when I was younger is not going to waste.

Don’t worry, Jared is still working out and recently he had the opportunity to compete in his first bodybuilding competition. He made it into the top five in both of his classes.

We’ll be sure to keep following Well’s fitness and bodybuilding journey as it progresses. You can follow him on Instagram here, and as they say on r/GetMotivated,  “Jared didn’t take the day off, did you?”