Woman with lungs operating at 46 percent takes on RAGBRAI

Diagnosed at 23, doctors said she had seven years to live

BRITT, Iowa - "They basically said I had seven years or less to live," says Barb Heenan, cyclist with Scleroderma.

Barb Heenan was diagnosed with Scleroderma when she was 23 years old.

"It made life a little harder to live," says Heenan.

The disease hardens your skin and your inner organs. Her lungs currently operate at 46 percent.

"It's like the unknown, you just didn't know and the reports we knew you had 10 years to live being diagnosed with this disease so you kind of start making some plans about the end," says Randine Crouch, Barb's lifelong friend.

She outlived her expiration date. She's now 46 years old.

"For me, it was just living through it and so I had a very big party on my 30th birthday. I continue to have a big party every year since then. My birthday is a great day for me. So I'm very happy to be 46," says Heenan.

Heenan and her support team are riding just two days of RAGBRAI for their first time this year.

"We support her in a lot of different ventures and she does various thing to raise money and this is our way of reaching out to the community so that they can learn what Scleroderma is," says Mike Heenan, Barb's husband.

"I'm not being crazy about my goal, which I think that's important too; to be realistic about what you're capable of. I know I'm physically not capable of doing seven days of this nonstop. But two days, I'll be very proud of myself," says Heenan.

Heenan and her team get stopped often during the ride asking about the disease... and they continue delivering a positive message to inspire others along the way.

I'm all about showing others with Scleroderma that they can continue to live and if you have a goal, you can achieve it," says Heenan. 

-- Jamie Perez

Follow @CarieKuehnNews on Twitter for RAGBRAI updates all week long and check out our expanded RAGBRAI coverage at OurQuadCities.com/RAGBRAI.

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