I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease shortly after moving to Massachusetts after college. I had just started a new "big girl" job in healthcare management, moved far away from my friends and family, and moved into an apartment on my own. Looking back now, I had been experiencing symptoms for quite some time before that, but then the disease became undeniable. I lost weight rapidly - down almost 15 pounds in a few weeks - and experienced excruciating abdominal pain. The more I tried to ignore it, the worse it came back with a vengeance. Finally I found myself admitted to the hospital with a nasogastric tube and preparing for a colonoscopy - and in the next few days, was officially diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
|Shortly after moving to MA at less than 100 pounds|
As the next few months passed by, I learned that I could help to control these symptoms. My gastroenterologist tried a number of medications before we found one that worked - an oral medication called azathioprine, which works by suppressing the immune system (and putting patients at higher risk for other diseases, since white blood cell production is suppressed). I also learned that diet played a huge role in the inflammation and pain I was experiencing. The foods we traditionally think of as healthy - like whole grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy - wreaked havoc with my GI system. Over the years, I have learned through trial and error which foods work for me, and which I can tolerate when my disease is flaring versus when my symptoms are in remission.
|Yikes, check out that prednisone puffiness!|
When I completed my first marathon after being diagnosed with Crohn's, I knew I had fallen in love with this sport all over again - and felt like nothing could stand in my way. Running with Crohn's has proven to me that despite the physical and mental challenges of this chronic disease, I am stronger and braver than I sometimes feel. Crohn's has taught me patience - knowing that there will be days where just getting out of bed is a struggle, and I need to work with what my body gives me on a day-to-day, and even moment-to-moment basis. And Crohn's has made me grateful for the days that I do have - those incredible runner's high moments where it feels like I could go forever. I know with this disease that life has no guarantees - but living with Crohn's gives me a reason to push past all that, and to experience every moment of the run.
|First marathon post-diagnosis - victory!|
Why am I writing about this now? Well this week, I received some not-so-great news. It appears that my miracle drug that has kept my Crohn's in remission for the past five years or so is no longer working for me. That's not altogether unusual, as the body adapts to a certain class of drugs and requires a more aggressive form of treatment. However, I was hoping to have at least a few more years on this one. Now all I can do is wait for more testing to figure out what my body up to now... including my fifth colonoscopy in as many years.
As unsettling as all the uncertainty is right now, I am doing my best to take each challenge as it comes. I am focusing on being grateful for how strong my body has become over the years, both as a result of this incredible sport of running and of fighting this disease. Crohn's has put many obstacles in my path, but for now, I appreciate every moment I have to keep running on.