The middle child of a family of Five, Sophia was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 6.
As a child of a very close-knit family, Sophia felt the isolation of having to stay behind to do treatments at a very young age, yet this never impacted the profound relationship she developed with each of her siblings. Family has been the foundation for everything that Sophia has become. By her side, a father who has worked so hard to provide for his family and a mother whom can be defined as a “pillar of strength”, Sophia developed into a young woman who was forced to face the definition of a word no teenager should ever know. Mortality.
As a Senior in High School, Sophia was hospitalized for the first time since her CF diagnosis. It was the turning point for her, when she made the bold choice to no longer keep her disease a secret . A wise woman asked her, “what do you want your legacy to be?”. These words were the catalyst. In that moment, Sophia knew she wanted to make a difference by using her voice.
And so she did.
And she has continued to use her voice to inspire, encourage and lift up all of those around her who are fighting their own battles.
She will continue to do so, as This Is Her Legacy.
- Written by Christine Panyard
let me tell you a little about phia.
A friend isn’t someone you have to see every day or even talk to at least once a week. You know those people who you can’t help but be happy around? Those are friends. Those are the best friends- my favorite kind of people. Sophia is my kind of people- in fact, she’s my person. You can even hear her fantastically obnoxious laugh from three blocks away. This puts an instant smile on everyone’s face. Of course, life isn’t always roses and rainbows. Often her laughter is interrupted with body wrenching coughing spells. Her lungs might not function beautifully, but I’ve never met a more beautiful soul. We may not be able to solve each other’s problems but we will never face them alone.
I met Sophia in first grade after she transferred to Fruitport Public Schools. It was immediate love over our first shared half-pint milk carton. That girl could drink milk! I always thought it was gross because she drank Vitamin D compared to my Low Fat Skim. Little did I understand at the time that she needed all the vitamins she could get. We’d sprint to the school’s nurse station before lunch so she could take her enzymes. She needed these to help digest food and store nutrients. We thought we were the coolest because we got to leave early and be first in line at the cafeteria for that rectangle pizza we all loved so much. Looking back now, I would trade every chocolate milk and every single ‘first in line’ lunch day for Phia’s Cystic Fibrosis to be cured.
Throughout our early years of friendship Sophia kept her disease a secret from others. This was easier at that time because she was able to stay relatively healthy by completing her treatments and attending regular check-ups. It wasn’t until our senior year of high school when Sophia was hospitalized for a minimum of two weeks over Christmas break. I remember that day we dropped Sophia off in Grand Rapids. I can still feel those angry tears falling down my cheeks on that freezing afternoon while walking out of the hospital after leaving her in that damn hospital bed. I looked over at her dad and I knew his tears were angry too. He put his arm around me and said “She’ll be okay,”
I knew Sophia was one tough chick. I know she would always fight. But why her? She’s my best friend. Why does my best friend have to be sick? And not just sick, chronically ill. It’s these questions that we will never understand. Sophia was given her life because God knew she was strong enough to live it. That is what I wish most for her. To live life to the fullest. Never stop sharing your love with people for that is why you are on this earth. The world adores you for it. Thank you for being my un-biological sister and a Cyster to the countless lives you touched.
- Written by Hillary Mullennix
Sophia Marie Cerniglia, socialite from a small town with a bombshell heart, as if her brilliant brown eyes, long blackened chestnut hair, and fiery attitude didn't get her noticed, it was her big, socially active, restaurant owning, Italian family. Everyone thinks they have the best dad, but not everybody can say they have a real life Teddy bear... who truly is the best. Growing up with five other children taught her how to love, share, fight, struggle, grieve, and celebrate. She has had the privilege pf learning and growing from them and everyone who has touched their hearts, by proxy, they have touched hers. Her personality is large and happens to be a hodgepodge of traits that she has inherited from her mother (who honestly deserves all of the credit for her fabulousness) and all of the other inspiring individuals she has had the honor of meeting. Eating gourmet Italian entrees on the daily, soaking in the West Michigan lake shore, dancing at every chance allowed to her, and being the most glamorous female she could possibly be, defines the happiest memories of her childhood.
She is both physically and emotionally entrenched in a relationship with Cystic Fibrosis. Relationship means to be connected, and connected is what CF has made her; connected to her best friends, connected to her supporters, connected to her lifelines, and connected to her passion and purpose in life. Not everybody can understand what it feels like to be sick all the time, every day, every night, and every waking or dreaming moment, but that is not what she wants people to understand. She wants people to understand how much fun life is despite. She wants people to live, love, dance, eat, and be as every bit fabulous as they were meant to be.
- Written by Delaney Mullennix