Three years ago, Alanna Ambrosio could barely walk for more than 3 feet without needing an oxygen mask.
But the 20-year-old Huntington Station woman with cystic fibrosis has come a long way since then.
Now a certified Zumba instructor, Ambrosio was one of five leading classes Friday night at the Huntington Fire Department during a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event raised $2,490.
“You need to exercise in order to stay healthy,” Ambrosio said. “I do Zumba every day. I fell in love with it because you dance to music from all over the world and it’s so much fun.”
Ambrosio was diagnosed with the life-threatening genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system when she was a year old. Over the years battling the disease, she has dealt with shortness of breath, constant coughing and loss of appetite.
“I had no energy. I wasn’t hungry and I was constantly throwing up,” she said. “My stomach always hurt because it affects your pancreas. I was always sick.”
Ambrosio underwent a double lung transplant on Nov. 23, 2009, at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. While the cystic fibrosis no longer affects her lungs, Ambrosio still has to battle it in her pancreas and sinuses.
“Alanna is a tough kid,” said her father, Pasquale Ambrosio, 55. “The hardest thing in the world is seeing your child sick, but she is a fighter.”
Ambrosio’s parents are both carriers of the disease.
“Right before the double lung transplant, Alanna needed assistance with everything from taking a shower to getting dressed. Alanna is amazing,” said her mother, Arleen Ambrosio, 50. “She will be celebrating her 21st birthday on April 26.”
A graduate of Walt Whitman High School, Alanna Ambrosio is determined to spread awareness about the disease. She has been walking for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for the past two years with team Breathe With Me in Westhampton Beach. She plans to walk again on May 19.
Nancy Rao, regional director for the Long Island office of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, was thrilled to support the Zumba fundraiser and educate people about cystic fibrosis.
“Thirty thousand Americans have cystic fibrosis,” Rao said. “The donations made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation are very important because it is going towards research, and research will find a cure.”
Ambrosio’s friend and fellow Zumba instructor Erica Lucks, of Deer Park, was eager to participate in Friday’s event.
“I am happy to help. Alanna always has a smile on her face even through the pain,” Lucks said.
Unwilling to let cystic fibrosis rule her life, Ambrosio is determined to battle this disease.
“I am strong,” she said. “I will fight through this.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.cff.org. Click on Great Strides and type in Breathe With Me team – Alanna Ambrosio.