Performer uses music to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis

Keith Ducharme

Building awareness for a cause usually means fund-raisers, charity concerts and selling candy bars. One ISU freshman who is one of thousands of Americans with cystic fibrosis is using more than her sales skills to raise awareness of the disease.

Tracy Cross, freshman in liberal arts and sciences, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was three months old. Last fall, Tracy released her first album, “The Only Response is Love,” to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting the disease.

“I have been involved with music since I was very young,” she says. “I thought [the album] would be a cool thing to do.”

The songs on her album are a mix of blues and contemporary Christian, Tracy says. While no lyrics are explicitly about cystic fibrosis, all have positive and inspirational messages to cheer people up.

“Some are fairly slow, but there are fun, upbeat songs,” Tracy says. “All the musicians are amazing.”

Tracy’s mother, Jean, says she hopes the CD will raise awareness about the genetic disease.

“It can be a silent killer since those who have it don’t look sick,” Jean says. “I think we are near the cure, through gene therapy.”

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Web site,, cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects approximately 30,000 Americans. Millions more are symptomless carriers of the disease who can unknowingly pass the condition to their children. The gene causes the body to produce a thick mucus in the lungs, which leads to lung infections and obstruction of the pancreas and results in an impaired digestive system.

Having the disease hasn’t slowed Tracy down. Throughout her childhood, Tracy says, she sang in school and church choirs, in addition to playing the violin for one year and the clarinet for four years. She also joined the HYP Superstars, a choral group that performs all over Des Moines.

Her mother says Tracy grew up fighting illnesses. During her junior and senior years in high school, Jean says Tracy missed nearly one-third of school because of all the colds and flus she caught because of her weakened immune system.

“For [Tracy’s] whole life, she has had to take daily medication and respiratory treatments,” Jean says. “Tracy grew up thinking that’s how all kids grew up.”

Jean says Tracy’s entire family has provided support through the years, in addition to children’s hospitals that have helped Tracy whenever she fell sick.

That was one reason Tracy decided to attend Iowa State. Her mother says when the family visited with university officials, they were very understanding of Tracy’s condition, ensuring health support and an accommodating schedule.

“We’ve been so proud of her,” Jean says. “Her health has been good and she’s been getting good grades.”

It seems much of the support she received as a child is now helping get the word out on her album. Her mother has been busy selling CDs at grocery stores and craft fairs around the family’s hometown of Norwalk. Brian Packard, Tracy’s uncle, has been sending press releases about the album and is currently negotiating to have stores in Ames sell Tracy’s album.

Until then, Jean says the best way for anyone to get their own copy is to e-mail her at [email protected] for more information.

Although Tracy has taken the year off from singing, Jean says she knows her daughter will be ready to audition for choirs next fall.

“I know she loves music,” she says. “As long as her health keeps up, she’ll keep singing.”