Model with Cystic Fibrosis Bringing Awareness to Disease

This model with CF took part in photo shoot for awareness campaign while suffering from pneumonia!

Professional model Cassie Hawthorne is acting as the face of a social media campaign aimed at raising awareness about cystic fibrosis (CF) – a disease which Cassie lives with herself.

But in a poignant example of the precariousness of living with CF, it turned out that when the photo shoot for the Strawfie Challenge campaign took place, Cassie actually had pneumonia.

“I was feeling awful and waiting for a hospital bed so that I could be admitted” said Cassie, from Birmingham, England.

“I thought I might as well go ahead with the shoot. I know the photographer Sarah Palmer well. In fact she had a close friend who lost her own battle with CF. So that gives us a strong connection when we work together. The photos turned out great, but as I explained to Sarah on the day, underneath the make-up my complexion had a very unhealthy grey pallor.”

Cassie was admitted to hospital a few days later and the diagnosis of pneumonia was confirmed, leading to a hospital admission that lasted three weeks, followed by a lengthy convalescence.

“This latest setback has just made me more determined to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis” said Cassie.

“The ‘Breathe With Me’ Strawfie Challenge campaign is driven by the CF community rather than a professional organisation and people have supported it from many different countries.”

“The important thing about this campaign is that people are asked to experience for themselves, just for a short time, how difficult life can be when the very act of breathing becomes a daily struggle. When people experience that sensation themselves they are unlikely to forget it and hopefully they will feel empathy”.

The Strawfie Challenge campaign asks people to breathe through a straw with a pinched nose for at least 60 seconds. Participants then take a ‘straw breathing selfie’ or ‘Strawfie’ and post it online with the campaign donation details:

Text BWCF64 £5.00 to 70070 and then nominate friends to take part. All donations will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Anyone living in countries other than the UK can also join in and change the donation details to a CF foundation of their choice – the Strawfie Challenge is about the worldwide cystic fibrosis community fighting together to make their voice heard.

“As an added twist for May this year, we are asking people in the UK to wear yellow lipstick when they take their Strawfie (or purple for USA or Ireland)” said Cassie. “Yellow is the brand colour of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in the UK and we are trying to ‘Get CF on everyone’s lips’ – which is also a great hashtag for when people post online. Other countries can change the colour according to their own CF brand colour.

“Alternatively, people can do a ‘Fight CF’ theme – with two yellow stripes on each cheek – like camouflage stripes. Yellow face paint is great for either the lips or the cheeks, so there is no need to splash out on a yellow lipstick!”

Former design student Cassie was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at six weeks old.

Early diagnosis can often improve prognosis and certainly when Cassie was younger she refused to let CF get in the way of living a full life.

She travelled the world, lived and worked in Australia, enjoyed the hustle and bustle of south east Asia and trekked through the Sahara desert on the back of a camel. However, cystic fibrosis is a progressive disease and there were reality checks.

“I’ve also seen the inside of lots of different hospitals in lots of different countries too!” said Cassie. “As I get older the daily slog becomes more real. Regular fortnightly hospital admissions, infection after infection, 50+ tablets per day, lengthy physiotherapist sessions. Also missing special planned events – friends and families milestone birthday and anniversary celebrations, with the realisation that I may never get to see my own.

“However, I am still trying to cram as much in as possible in the brief moments when I am well enough.”

Cassie’s modelling career has included promotional work for glossy magazines, a major UK supermarket and also nationwide hair & bridal companies including live TV. In 2011 she was the face of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s official CF week campaign.


Cassie’s photo courtesy of Nellie Photography

Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell is one of PW's consultants and patient editors. She has lived with late-stage, chronic Lyme and POTS since circa 2002. She has also served as a caregiver to close family members with late-stage, chronic Lyme. Before diagnosis, she served as a business consultant for a large corporation and PM for a small digital branding agency. Now, she is proactive in the rare and neurological disease community, spreading awareness and advising on matters of health and lifestyle when living with a chronic illness.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Close Menu