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Jaed Wells of Utica, New York, always wanted to be a professional bodybuilder, but cystic fibrosis held him back from his dream.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. The infections and lung damage caused by disease reduce a person’s life expectancy to just 40 years.

About five years ago, at the age of 16, Jared’s health began to fail.


“For some reason, when I was doing my medications nothing was healing right. I just kept getting sicker and sicker,” he told WKTV.

“I got really close a couple of times that I was not even sure I was going to bounce back and after that it seemed really tough to get out of it but eventually I made my way though and I'm here now," he added.

At 21, his health began to improve and he was released from the hospital. But the years of battling CF had taken a toll on his body. Jared was was frail and had little muscle tone.

Hoping to get back into shape, last March, he began working out the Body Alive gym in Utica with his best friend, Vinny Donnelly.

Vinny’s father, Bob Donnelly, is the owner of the gym.  

He warned the community of bodybuilders not to make any “wise cracks” about Jared’s slight frame.

This is my son's friend Jarod.Before I hear any wise cracks. Jared has been fighting lung cancer and we almost lost...

Posted by Body Alive on Saturday, March 17, 2018

A few days after Jared started hitting the gym, Bob Donnelly posted an inspiring photo of Jared working his eight-inch biceps on Facebook.

The inspiring photo of Wells fighting back after years of struggle quickly went viral, earning over 19,000 shares.

“We expected it to get the maybe 200 likes that the page usually gets, then all of a sudden it was getting thousands," Wells told NBC News. “It’s kind of exciting, and it's all been really positive.”

Bob Donnelly kept the Body Alive community updated with posts of Jared’s progress.

Jared’s unwavering desire to get fit in spite of living with a terminal disease was an inspiration to many. The support he received from the Body Alive community and social media allowed him to push himself even further.

Vinny Donnelly started a GoFundme page to help with Jared’s medical bills and supplements.

“Jared has been a close family friend for years,” Vinny wrote. “He's strong willed and has been fighting since I've known him. I don't want him to fight alone.  We are going to keep hitting the gym and stay positive.”

By July, Jared gained 35 pounds and was eating 6,000 calories a day.

Here's the most recent photo of Jared from August 22,  just four months after embarking on his journey.

Jared’s story is inspiring on many levels.

Not only did he fight his way back from the brink of death to build a healthy body, but he did so without giving a thought what others in the gym might say. He walked into an intimidating gym filled with muscle-bound weightlifters and pushed his 121-pound body to the absolute limit.

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