- Janka Penther’s, 35, illness left her housebound and breathing through a tube
- At one stage she told her family she wanted to travel to Dignitas to end her life
- Last month she completed a 200-obstacle event after a double lung transplant
- Suicide would not have been an option if she knew about life post-transplant
- She hopes to inspire other cystic fibrosis patients to ‘grab life by the horns’
A suicidal fitness fanatic crippled by her cystic fibrosis (CF) has defied the odds to complete the world’s toughest assault course after having a double lung transplant.
Janka Penther’s, 35, illness left her housebound, barely able to walk and breathing through an oxygen tube.
At one stage she felt so unwell she told her family she wanted to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland to end her life – a move her father supported.
Yet driven by her desire to go surfing again, Ms Penther from Witney, Oxfordshire, underwent a successful lung transplant.
Last month she ran the ‘Rat Race Dirty Weekend’ event, which involves negotiating 200 obstacles including water crossings, monkey bars and climbing walls in what is thought to be the world’s toughest assault course.
Ms Penther said: ‘My message is this; grab life by the horns and dare to do things.’
Janka Penther, 35, who considered an assisted suicide, completed a 20-mile assault course
The course had 200 obstacles including water crossings, monkey bars and climbing walls
Ms Penther’s cystic fibrosis symptoms were crippling (pictured before the transplant)
WHAT IS CYSTIC FIBROSIS?
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition that affects more than 10,800 people in the UK.
It causes sufferers to experience a build-up of thick sticky mucus in their lungs, digestive system and other organs.
The condition reduces lung function and increases the risk of infection.
CF patients require more than 50 tablets, and a couple of hours of physiotherapy, a day.
Transplants may be considered for the severely ill when other treatments have failed.
Source: Cystic Fibrosis Trust
‘I want to move boundaries’
Ms Penther, a restaurant worker who completed the course in eight hours, said: ‘There were times when I wanted to give up – but it was awesome to finish and one of the best days of my life.
‘I shed a few tears during the race but crossing the finishing line was incredible and came with such a sense of achievement.
‘It is rare for a lung transplant patient to be able to run 20 miles. It’s just silly. I asked around and I don’t know of anyone who’s ever done anything similar.
She said: ‘My consultant knew exactly what I was doing and thought I was mad. But he knows what I’m like and didn’t try to stop me.
‘I want to move the boundaries.
‘I want to show other CF patients that you can overcome your difficulties.
Her condition left her housebound, barely able to walk and breathing through an oxygen tube
Ms Penther initially decided against a lung transplant out of fear it would make her more ill
Yet, her desire to go surfing again promoted her to have the eight-hour transplant operation
‘Grab life by the horns and dare to do things’
She said: ‘At 15, if I’d seen people like me now, I would not have considered suicide. But I didn’t have any idea of what life after transplant would be like.
‘For me, running the Rat Race is about freedom and a love for life. For someone else it’s a walk down the hill.
‘You can do so much – and I hope that people can see that.
‘Unfortunately I’m still on borrowed time due to my illness – but I plan to make the most of it.
‘My message is this; grab life by the horns and dare to do things.’
At time she questioned her decision and thought assisted suicide may be the better option
Ms Penther received the lungs of an 23-year-old who passed away for unknown reasons
Ms Penther’s father supported her decision to end her life if she wished (pictured third right)
THE LAWS ON EUTHANASIA
Many believe they have a ‘right to die’ and should be able to commit suicide on their own terms.
Euthanasia would allow those with a terminal illness to bring an end to their misery before dying as a result of it.
Yet, under the Suicide Act 1961, it is illegal in Britain to help someone end their life – known as assisted suicide.
It carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence.
While euthanasia, the act of deliberately ending someone’s life to relieve them of suffering, is regarded as either manslaughter or murder.
It is punishable with a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment.
MPs voted against an Assisted Dying Bill last year by 336 votes to 118 in the first vote of its kind in 20 years.
Source: NHS Choices
Before the transplant, Ms Penther had considered assisted suicide to put an end to her daily misery.
She said: ‘I talked to my dad about Dignitas. I became a member of Dignitas, paid my enrollment fee and also the annual membership fee.
‘I spoke to everyone about it, and while my mum found it hard my dad said: “Yes, when the time comes, you can come to me and I’ll help”.
‘There were three really bad winters. Firstly, I got swine ‘flu, which had a really negative effect on my lung capacity.
She said: ‘Then the next winter I fell into a freezing cold river trying to rescue my dog, ending up with pneumonia.
‘It was like breathing through a straw that’s half covered. You have tight lungs, you feel sick and dizzy from lack of oxygen.
‘You start to think, “If I walk somewhere, can I make it back?” And in the meantime my friends were off getting married and starting families.’
Swine ‘flu and pneumonia made her suffer from tight lungs, nausea and dizziness
Ms Penther’s mother Angi, 63, (pictured) struggled to accept the thought of her suicide
She would never have considered suicide if she had known what was possible post-transplant
Ms Penther hopes to inspire other sufferers to ‘grab life by the horns and dare to do things’
‘Maybe tomorrow will be better’
After initially turning down a lung transplant out of fear it would make her even more ill, Ms Penther had a change of heart.
She said: ‘I did tell my dad, “I don’t know if I can do this – maybe we’re going to have to go to Switzerland anyway”. I was too ill to even sit in the garden.
‘All I could think was, “If I don’t get these lungs, I’m suffering for nothing.” There were days when I just couldn’t face living.
‘But then a little voice inside my head would say: “Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be better.”
Ms Penther had the eight hour operation in April 2013 and received the lungs of a woman who died of unknown causes aged 23.