A 32-year-old Salmon Arm woman has been recognized with a prestigious leadership award for making a disease with no cure less scary.
On Dec. 16, the charity Cystic Fibrosis Canada announced Terra Stephenson was the 2021 recipient of the National Eva Markvoort Leadership Award.
According to CF Canada’s Sandra Niven, the leadership award was created to honour Markvoort, “an inspirational young woman with CF.”
CF is a fatal genetic disease for which there’s currently no cure.
Eva’s father, Bill, presented the award to Stephenson during a Dec. 9 virtual event. Earlier in the day, he had called Stephenson, and the two shared their life experiences.
Stephenson has volunteered with CF Canada for most of her life. From a young age she was comfortable and confident to speak publicly about her diagnosis with CF. She credits her parents for being open and encouraging her to educate herself on the disease, understand her capabilities and limits and make CF less frightening.
“I have always been pretty at peace with CF being a part of who I am,” said Stephenson. “Talking about it has always been kind of cathartic for me … trying to get people to a similar place where it’s not as scary to deal with CF isn’t hard, it’s helpful.
“There are definitely difficult times and dealing with CF can be really hard. But your whole life doesn’t have to be focused on the scary parts,” she said.
Stephenson was born in Peace River, Alta. and her family moved around a bit before settling in Salmon Arm when she was nine — two years after she started publicly speaking about CF. Stephenson has lived in Salmon Arm since, except when she was getting her teaching degree in Kelowna. She also substitute taught in Vancouver briefly; however, being in a large classroom proved to be too much of a health risk.
Stephenson now works for the Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society as a children’s program coordinator.
“It’s been a really perfect fit for me … to be involved in getting children’s programs running.”
CF Canada ended its Dec. 16 award announcement with these words about Stephenson: “Her positivity and emphasis on doing the best you can while being as healthy as you can has given people the hope they need to fight this disease … Terra sets a beautiful example for those who are fighting CF.”