The Secret Life of Alice Martineau and Her Cystic Fibrosis

Edgar Allan Poe’s idea of perfect beauty is frequently associated with living life to its fullest in a short period of time and dying young. Lenore, from his most famous poem, died when she was still young and beautiful. This was not a one-time thing for Poe. Young women also die in other poems, like “Annabel Lee” and “Eulalie.” And the transience of beauty is explored in his short stories as well. See “Berenice” and “Morella.” It might seem like this is just a literary trope, but it happens frequently.

Alice Martineau is an example of this concept in real life, as reported by the Telegraph. This young model and singer died at just 30 due to complications from cystic fibrosis (CF).
Alice was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth.

Her parents were told that she would probably only live to be about 10 years. Despite this grim prognosis, she worked hard not to be defined by the rare genetic disorder. In fact, only her closest friends knew anything about her medical issues. She would go on to shatter that life expectancy three times over.

CF is a progressive respiratory and digestive condition.

A person with CF produces mucus that is thicker than the average person’s. This mucus will collect in the lungs and the digestive tract. A person with CF will frequently have difficulty breathing and cough excessively. With the mucus in the digestive system, the person’s body cannot secrete a necessary enzyme needed for proper digestion. Malnutrition is a frequent problem for people with CF.

Despite Alice’s difficulty breathing, she had an exceptional singing voice. It was strong, husky, and distinctive, most likely from the years of coughing. Her voice won her a record contract just after turning 30. She recorded that album while suffering from CF complications.

Her condition continued to deteriorate after the album was recorded. She could not promote her record or even go on tour. She passed away a little over half a year later.

Another woman with health issues, Alice Peterson, read an article written by Martineau while waiting for organ transplants. The two Alices struck up a short, but unlikely, friendship in the last few months of Martineau’s life.

Years later, after a successful recovery, Peterson decided to write a fictionalized version of Martineau’s brief life. With the family’s permission, Peterson went ahead with the plan. The book, A Song for Tomorrow, was published in February 2017.

We’ve heard of Byronic heroes, those roguish antiheroes who entice readers with their arrogance and romanticism, coming to life. Perhaps it is time to recognize Alice Martineau as a Poenian beauty.

Read an article about the Alice and the novel from The Telegraph by clicking here.

Find out more about CF by visiting our partners Cystic Life or the Strawfie Challenge.

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