The Powerful Story of One Life with Cystic Fibrosis

A college class in solo performance, taken during his senior year, changed Brennen Reeve’s life.


It was the first time the now 24-year-old ever really shared his experiences with cystic fibrosis: growing up with an incurable disease, watching young friends die from CF complications, and having a double lung transplant about four years ago.

With the support of David Lee Nelson, his professor at the College of Charleston, Brennen used his original 15-minute performance piece from class to create Breathe. A True Story, which is billed as “a theatrical autobiography.”

As Brennen remembers it, David noticed that when the class was tasked with writing down 10 events that had changed their lives, Brennen had written absolutely nothing about CF or his transplant. David encouraged Brennen to open up about both.

“So I did.” Brennen recalls, “And it was hard. I cried at home, in class.”

That exercise was eventually expanded into the current full-length solo show that Brennen and David hope will raise awareness about CF.

Getting to this chapter in his story has sometimes been a difficult, emotional road for Brennen.

Before it was discovered that people with CF can infect each other (and isolation and contamination practices were implemented), it was common for the CF community to host group activities. So, Brennen’s childhood was spent back in the days when CFers spent a lot of time together.

“[In the hospital], we’d all cough together, wear our oxygen together, wish others good luck as they were headed downstairs for a procedure or surgery. It was a family,” says Brennen.

There’s something profound about being with others who share your deadly disease, watching them be strong. Because of those memories and relationships, guilt was Brennen’s frequent writing companion. Who was he to be writing his story when he knew so many others whose stories seemed more important?

In the end, Brennen realized that by sharing his story, he could encourage everyone with CF to share their own.

Brennen and David want to present Breathe. A True Story at colleges, hospitals, and theatre conventions, and are hoping to have it published as well.

To book Breathe. A True Story, get more information, or connect with Brennen or David, please email them at:

  • David Lee Nelson-
  • Brennen Reeves-



EmpatheticBadass is a young-at-heart writer from Ohio (Go, Bobcats & The Marching 110!)) who is passionate about being a voice for the patient perspective.

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