Real Life

Big Brother star Reggie Sorensen's promise to her sick son

Australia will remember her as the lovable fish and chip shop owner who won season three of Big Brother back in 2003. But these days, Reggie Sorensen is on a much more important crusade.

By Bella Brennan

The single mother-of-two is putting her own health issues aside, which include being legally blind, to help raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis.

The debilitating illness affects the lungs and digestive system. Sufferers have a faulty exocrine system which results in a thick mucus on the lungs, digestive system and airways.

At present, there is no cure for the life-threatening disease and the life expectancy is around 37 years.

So when the former reality star’s six-year-old son Lucas was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, Reggie decided to take matters into her own hands.

As May marks Cystic Fibrosis month, Reggie is encouraging people to get involved in the Strawfie Challenge.

Reggie, pictured with daughter Mia and son Lucas strapped into his breathing machine, is campaigning tirelessly to raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis.
Reggie, pictured with daughter Mia and son Lucas strapped into his breathing machine, is campaigning tirelessly to raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis.

“I’m trying to get people to upload a photo of them holding their nose while sucking on a straw for 60 seconds. That gives them an idea of how it feels to be someone with Cystic Fibrosis and how hard it is to breath,” she tells Woman’s Day Online.

There’s no denying the Strawfie Challenge is a tough 60 seconds, however this is the reality of Lucas and thousands of other’s lives.

Constantly monitoring her son’s health, Reggie admits that if he gets a “wet cough” which doesn't clear up, he can end up in hospital for months.

Her six-year-old can often spend months at a time in hospital.
Her six-year-old can often spend months at a time in hospital.

With Lucas having to undertake physiotherapy sessions twice a day to prevent the build-up of mucus on the lungs and the constant fear he may become gravely unwell, the stress has taken its toll on Reggie.

“I have a lot of anxiety when he does start to get sick, I start to panic. I don’t want to end up in hospital,” she says.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of the illness is the fact her six-year-old son is already aware of his own mortality.

“He does ask a lot ‘mummy when am I going to die?’ He knows he’s got this condition, it’s sad. I just tell him ‘everyone is going to die one day Lucas, I don’t know how long you’re going to be here for.’ It’s just horrible for a six-year-old boy to be saying that,” Reggie reveals.

May 27 marks the annual 65 Roses Day, which raises money for the illness.
May 27 marks the annual 65 Roses Day, which raises money for the illness.

Looking after Lucas has become a full-time job in itself and until his condition improves, Reggie simply can’t commit to holding down a job.

“At the moment, he’s getting sick and when he ends up in hospital I would need to find a boss who would be understanding if I took weeks at a time off work.”

Although she admits having a child with CF is “a lot of work, stress and heartache” Reggie is determined for Lucas to have a great quality of life.

“I hope one day there is going to be a cure for CF,” she tells us.

On top of managing Lucas’ illness, Reggie is also legally blind and suffers from Pyrrole disorder – a biochemical imbalance involving an abnormality in haemoglobin synthesis. Symptoms can include bowel dysfunction, poor stress control and mood swings.

The 2003 *Big Brother* winner is urging people to participate in the #StrawfieChallenge
The 2003 Big Brother winner is urging people to participate in the #StrawfieChallenge

While she jokes “there is no one to look after me” Reggie has rekindled her on-off romance with former Manly Sea Eagles footballer, John Jones.

“John understands [the kids come first]. He’s good in that way. I can’t give all my time to John. It’s just impossible. No matter who I’m with they’re always going to come second,” the devoted mother muses.

Life may have dealt an unfair amount of blows to the 41-year-old but her endearing nature and cheeky sense of humour the nation fell in love with some 13 years ago are still very much intact.

“I don’t take things for granted at all. Life’s so precious. Especially with going blind, I like to do as much as I can!”

Never say never! Reggie wouldn't rule out returning to reality TV and would happily be sent to the jungle for next year's installment of *I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!*
Never say never! Reggie wouldn't rule out returning to reality TV and would happily be sent to the jungle for next year's installment of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

So would Reggie ever revisit reality TV, or are those days well and truly behind her?

“Oh god yeah! I loved it when I was in Big Brother. I just had so much fun. If I was ever asked to do anything, I’d grab it with both hands and make the most of it. I’d do it for sure!"

If you'd like to donate money to the Strawfie Challenge, please visit Reggie's Everyday Hero page here.

And to find out more about the 65 Roses fundraising day on Friday, May 27 you can visit their website here.

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