Monday, January 16, 2017

Crohn's is Tough, but I am Tougher.

I'd hoped for a different running year in 2016. After my fastest year ever in 2015 I had high expectations, and Crohn's had other plans. My husband bought me some great running gear for my birthday (in August), and I realized this morning that I have not worn one of the shirts yet. I've run that infrequently the last eight months. It's been pretty challenging emotionally, and my clothes are clinging in all the wrong places. Something has to give. 

Last year was challenging because it was the first Crohn's flare I'd had in 14 years. I had a lengthy hospital stay in 2014, but it was sort of Crohn's adjacent. I had a hernia repaired (elective surgery.). The hernia was the result of Crohn's scar tissue, and the resulting bowel obstruction was also from scar tissue. The subsequent blood clot was a surprise. But my actual Crohn's disease was in remission, and it allowed me to heal quickly.

The past nine months have been a huge struggle with my health. I passed out at the doctor's office in May and ended up spending a week in the hospital. Several months of steroids, a half a dozen courses of antibiotics and lots of sleepless, painful nights meant running (and exercising in general) was on the back burner. 

I'm about to get pretty TMI with my Crohn's, so if you don't want to know all these gory details stop reading now. If this is like a train wreck and you can't look away, I apologize in advance. Crohn's affects the entire digestive tract from mouth to anus. It's super sexy. This year I struggled significantly with mouth sores. Sometimes I'd have 5-6 at a time, and they'd be huge. Antibiotics and steroids would help, and then they'd come back. Thankfully since I switched to Humira in October it's kept the mouth sores at bay. There were times when I couldn't even kiss my husband. Brutal. 

My Crohn's was focused entirely in my colon (which was toxic and removed in 2000) and rectum. That means my small intestine is free of disease (thus far - knock on wood). That also means a ton of rectal inflammation. It's REALLY fun and really makes me feel like doing things like running (the sarcasm is coming through right?) 

When I ran the Detroit Half Marathon in October I felt so good. I felt like I was turning a corner. I registered for three half marathons in 2016 that I ended up not running. Not running a race for which I've registered is like a kick in the teeth. Running Detroit felt like I was back. I felt great during the entire race. Having an abscess materialize in the next week was so frustrating.

This is the first time I'd had an abscess drained, and it was as fun as you might imagine. I ignored it for a few days following the race because I thought it was chafing. Runners have lots of chafing in weird places, so I chalked it up to that. By the weekend after the race I knew it was more. I knew it was an abscess, and I went to the ER like a boss (because when you're a Crohn's patient you know your care better than ER doctors. Always. I am not being sarcastic.)

When the surgeon came in I told him I had a situation, and he laughed and said, "Well I'm the guy they call when there's a situation.." I knew he was the right guy because 99.9 percent of surgeons have no personality. I like to joke with them to see the blank stares I'll get. He wanted to drain it while I was awake in the ER, and I refused. I've suffered through procedures while being awake because I felt like I had to, and I won't do it anymore.  

I went into the OR around 2 pm, and we picked up my son by the end of the business day. You know, typical day with Crohn's. To drain the abscess they inserted what's called a seton, essentially a little rubber tube to drain it. Mine was attached in three places (all really, really uncomfortable places), and my doctor at the University of Michigan said it was by far the most complicated one she'd ever seen. Unfortunately one of the connection spots was right by my bikini line, and it was super uncomfortable and frequently painful. While I was cleared to run, it was always pulling that drain and did not feel good. I finally had it removed last week after two months, and I went for my first run the next day. I am the most out of shape I've been in years, but I'm building it back up. 

Now comes the fun part of running again: picking races. I'm registered for two 5ks and a 10k in the next six weeks. Baby steps. My original 2017 goal was a half marathon once a month, but that is not feasible until my health improves. Last weekend I went for several short 3-mile runs. They weren't fast, and they weren't pretty. But they felt amazing. I felt strong. That's the goal.

Although my health has been a challenge this year, it does not get to define me. It's obviously a huge part of me, but I'm so much more. I'll get through this rough patch, and I look forward to feeling strong again. One mile at a time...


  1. I'm not sure how I ran across your blog...must have been from a mutual friend. I love reading your open, honest posts. I also take comfort in your personal stories and strength. My Crohns is good right now, but it's scary. I hope when I have another flare that I handle it with as much grace as you.

    1. I didn't realize you had Crohn's too! It's so weird to see you as a grown up; I remember when you and your sister were little and Andrew was in your mom's pre-school class! I will keep you in my thoughts. I think having Crohn's just makes us super women. As if we weren't already. :)