Monday, April 2, 2012

Winning the war

I fully admit that I tend to be rather unsympathetic about what I consider minor health complaints of others. I consider things like colds, allergies, and other such ailments to be an inconvenience not a reason to stay home for work or lay on the couch. A few years ago I listened to testimony in a legislative hearing where a Crohn's patient was crying about not being able to leave the house. Come on lady, cry me a river. I've got Crohn's. Crying isn't going to make it better. And not leaving your house is just depressing.

There is no nice way to say that Crohn's Disease is a giant pain in the tail. Literally. It's been 14 years since I first became sick, and it has gotten more difficult to pretend like I'm feeling well like I did when I was 19. I think I put on a pretty good face most of the time, and people are generally surprised that I have Crohn's and run as much as I do. That doesn't mean that some days aren't harder than others.

I am so thankful for all of the blessings in my life. While Crohn's is a nuisance, it's a lot easier to deal with when you've got a supportive and loving husband, fantastic family and friends, a great work environment and good health insurance.

Last fall I blogged that I run to feel normal - that when I'm running I'm not a lady with Crohn's. I'm just a normal person with sore knees and achy joints.  Sometimes Crohn's does sideline me. A few weeks ago I skipped a long run (marathon training sacrilege) because I was having a rough week with my Crohn's. I missed a 13 mile run but did manage to get in a 10k later that weekend. Did I feel great? Not particularly. But I felt way better after pushing myself through than I would have lying around my house. 

I've always pushed myself even at my sickest. The photo below was taken in July of 2000, merely two weeks before I had my colon removed in an emergency surgery. I was hiking, and I had a temperature that day of 102 degrees. I also had a delightfully puffy face from Prednisone, but reaching the top of the hiking trail was totally worth it.
This is my face on Prednisone. Any questions?
I've gotten an IV infusion of immunosuppressant drugs every six weeks for the last decade.  It's not the most convenient thing when I'm away from the office for an afternoon and there's tons of work to be done. It is, however, the only medication that has ever kept me well.  I have a new doctor at the University of Michigan, and it's an hour to go to appointments and procedures. It's not convenient, but then again nothing about Crohn's is convenient.

At the end of the day, however, I am grateful that this is all I've got to deal with. There are so many people with cancer and heart problems and on dialysis for kidney failure. I am so blessed to know that I can deal with this. When I was at my sickest, from 1998-2002, I knew it would get better. And it did. Now when I'm not feeling well, I think back to that time and thank God that at least I'm not as sick as I was then.

In the hospital in Pittsburgh in December 2000 after my bowel reconstruction surgery - still smiling.
I missed a long run a few weeks ago, but I was back in action with a 16 mile run last weekend. My husband and I are planning multiple running trips and vacations over the summer. I never, not even for a minute, let my Crohn's keep me from two of the things I love the most: running and traveling. Life is too short to let Crohn's call the shots. 

I've learned as I get older to take a break every now and then and to realize that it's acceptable to not live my life at full speed 100% of the time. And there have been days when Crohn's has won the battle, but I am winning the war. I think I'll run in the inaugural Lansing Half Marathon in a few weeks to celebrate. 

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