I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2009 and within just a few weeks of getting sick, I experienced my first hospitalization. We tried a bunch of different medications but none of them worked. I missed a lot of work and struggled as a teacher. When I did make it into work, I couldn’t stand for long because I was so weak. When I had a short break, I would lay down on the floor of my classroom to rest. I barely ate, because anything I did eat, I threw up right away. I lost about 40 pounds in the span of a few months.
Within just 2 months of my diagnosis and my first hospitalization, I was back in the hospital again. I got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore and I called my mom to get her to take me to the ER. They rushed me ahead of a bunch of other people waiting in the ER because of how sick I must have looked. I couldn’t even talk to the triage nurse when she was asking me questions about my symptoms because I was so weak.
I spent over a month in the hospital, mostly in the ICU. I had 2 emergency surgeries because my colon had perforated in several spots. If they hadn’t operated when they did, I wouldn’t have survived. I can’t even imagine what it was like for my mom to hear from my surgeon that I was a few hours away from dying and to hear from my GI that I was the sickest patient he has ever seen.
The result of my surgeries was a temporary colostomy bag and a myriad of complications. I had a lung drained because of fluid built up. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything while I was in the hospital. I could barely talk because of all of the tubes. I had such severe back pain from lying in a hospital bed for a month that they gave me an MRI to see if something was wrong. And the worst of it was that my incision didn’t heal.
Six months later I had a 3rd surgery, this one planned, to reverse the colostomy. I spent Christmas and New Years in the hospital. Since my incision still hadn’t healed, and this was not a small incision, this was my entire stomach completely open; I was given a wound vac to make it heal. Picture gauze inside my stomach, a tube, and a small pressurized machine connected to my stomach for a month. Having the dressing changed every couple of days by a home care nurse was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. At one point I wanted to quit. I would have rather left my stomach gaping wide open than experience that pain anymore. But I got through it, and it healed, and now I have the crazy scars to remind me of all the pain and suffering I overcame.
Slowly my health improved. I was living with my mom temporarily because I couldn’t take care of myself. I was 29 at the time and having my mom do everything for me, including help me bathe, was not my idea of fun, not to mention I wasn’t able to work or have any kind of life outside of my mom’s house. I moved out of my mom’s place after a few months and started volunteering with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
I decided to try out Team Challenge in 2011 and almost exactly 2 years to the day of my first surgery, I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. When I started training, I could barely walk a block, let alone run any distance. So if you think you are too out of shape to run or walk a half marathon, or you just think you could never do something like this, believe me when I say it can be done. I went from completely inactive and weak to strong and a half marathon completer.
I have run 3 half marathons with Team Challenge. I am sure my teammates have already mentioned this…Team Challenge is so much more than a half marathon and fundraising. It is a family and it has truly changed my life. I can’t imagine my life without Team Challenge, and that’s why I keep coming back season after season. I have met so many amazing people; many of them are my closest friends now. They are the most caring and supportive people I have ever known. They are also crazy, but in the best way possible. They understand what I am going through on a daily basis and I can say “I don’t feel well” and nothing more needs to be said, and they always offer to help in whatever way possible.
I strongly encourage you to take the challenge and join our family. I guarantee it will change your life if you let it.