Just five years ago, Janka Penther was planning her own funeral and making sure all her affairs were in order.
Not only had she chosen all of her funeral songs, Penther had also written her own sermon.
“The only thing I couldn't do was write goodbye letters to my loved ones,” she said. “Every time I put pen to paper I'd break down. I was crying so much I couldn't breathe, so I never finished them. That was the one thing left to do.”
Penther had every last detail of her death planned—including the date.
Born with cystic fibrosis (CF)—a genetic condition that cause a buildup of mucus in the lungs and digestive system—Penther was not expected to live long.
Although doctors said Penther would likely die by the age of 21, her condition didn’t start to deteriorate rapidly until after she turned 30.
“I was 30 but living like an 80-year-old,” Penther said. “I was housebound, breathing through an oxygen mask attached to a tank beside my sofa. It felt like trying to breathe through a tiny straw.”
“My lungs were giving up - I had 11 per cent lung function. I couldn't walk from the sofa to the kitchen. I knew if I had a coughing fit I would collapse and might never get up again. Every day was a battle I thought I'd lose,” she added.
By the time she was forced to rely on a tube in her stomach to eat, Penther was ready to take the lethal injection and die on her own terms.
Then, amazingly enough, Penther discovered that she had qualified for a double-lung transplant that could change her life.
And it did.
Now, four years after the life-changing surgery, Penther is living her life in a way that she had always dreamed of.
She runs, swims, and surfs on her own—all activities she loves to enjoy with her boyfriend.
“I didn't have any hope,” Penther said. “I've always loved being outside and being social. When that's taken from you by illness, what else is there?”
“And because I knew how cystic fibrosis works, I wasn't being pessimistic - I was just being realistic. I thought I knew what my future held,” she added.
Now that Penther is finally able to enjoy her life, she’s not take a single moment for granted.
“Some days I can't believe it,” Penther said. “I'm still on medication - I take about 50 tablets a day to stop my body rejecting these lungs - but for the first time, I'm happy.”
“I checked myself in for my flight yesterday and noticed the expiry date on my passport: December 2018. When I got it in 2008, I never thought I'd have to renew it,” she added.