WATCH | Claire Wineland is 19 years old, but she already has a very close relationship with death. She has cystic fibrosis, a chronic and progressive disease that will eventually end her life.
But Wineland is using social media, and her very positive attitude, to normalize death and illness. Her message is that you can not only have a great life despite pain and suffering but because of it.
The people who have been through the most are the people with the most to give.
She uses herself as an example. Cystic fibrosis is an all-consuming, terminal disease that has caused her to spend a third of her life in and out of the hospital. It creates an overload of mucus in the body that coats all the internal organs, and over time, causes them to shut down.
But she's not only happy, she's thriving. She lives a very full life and she credits CF for giving her the ability to see the beauty of life through her pain. She encourages her followers to find the same beauty.
WATCH | She is vivacious, laughs easily and breaks off into passionate tangents, and she is exceptionally eloquent. Now, she's also a professional speaker. Her inspiring talk at Zappos is excerpted in the story, but is worth a full listen.
Claire and her family have started a foundation to help other children living with CF. Claire's Place gives grants to provide financial support to families living with cystic fibrosis.
Claire's life expectancy is up in the air. It's been pushed back from 10 years old, to 15, and now it's the early-to-mid 20's. She could die next year, or she could live for decades more. That part depends on the medical advances made for CF (there is no cure, only management of the symptoms) and Claire's own determination to work on her health.
In the meantime, Claire says she'll continue to use social media, public speaking and her foundation to help people live their best lives.