Marathon #65 – 26.2 for Holly
It was 2014, I was 29 and living in NYC as a freelance video editor, fencing on the national team, and beginning my first documentary film project. There was a lot going on in my life and I was doing it all! Until my bowels started to slow me down. It was little things at first like confusing my stomach cramps for period cramps. Feeling exhausted but assuming it was from a hard fencing practice. Having night sweats but blaming it on my room being hot. Getting so bloated that strangers on the subway would offer their seats to me (because I looked pregnant). Or the time I almost passed out on a shoot from cramps but thought my latte must have had dairy in it. These were warning signs that I ignored because I was working hard and didn’t have time to investigate these annoying health abnormalities.
One night, I was working the graveyard shift on an editing gig and went to the bathroom 6 times. Huh, that’s a bit more than usual. The next night, I was bleeding every time I went to the bathroom. And the night after that, I sat on the toilet for most of the shift. Something was wrong, so I did what any New Yorker does: find the next available appointment with a GI on ZocDoc. I also did a lot of googling because I didn’t want to ask anyone if bleeding while you poop is normal. Gross. When I got to the appointment, even talking about my bathroom issues with the doctor was embarrassing. He was very calm and matter of fact about scheduling a colonoscopy because he suspected I had Crohn’s Disease.
That was the first time I had ever heard of Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. And a colonoscopy? Isn’t that what over-50 year olds have to get? I called my mom, sobbing, because I thought I was going to die. I had been so healthy and athletic my whole life, so to tell me that I had an autoimmune disease was pretty much the end of my identity as I knew it. My doctor put me on steroids and we scheduled the colonoscopy a week later. Thanks to a quick diagnosis, eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet, and getting over my fear of needles, we were able to treat my Crohn’s and put me on a path toward remission in less than a year.
In that first year, I suffered in silence. I didn’t tell anyone except my immediate family and then it got around to my cousin. It turns out, I had a cousin who had Crohn’s and I had no idea. I moved back to NJ to live with my dad and that stress relief helped to quiet my symptoms. I still had trouble talking about Crohn’s but I found a flier for a Spin4 event in the city. I couldn’t make the event, but I googled the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and found Team Challenge. I hadn’t run more than 2-3 miles for fencing so the thought of training for a half marathon in my 30s sounded like a good goal. So, I signed up in 2016 and started training for my first half marathon in Napa with Team Challenge.
The NJ training runs were the first time I was telling strangers about my condition. It was also the first time I was running more than 3 miles. There were a lot of firsts. Each weekend was a new longest run and learning that I wasn’t the only one who had Crohn’s disease. Just being able to talk about weird bathroom issues and what medications people were on was such a relief and comfort. And when I started fundraising, more people I already knew shared their diagnoses with me. A few races later, I met Coach Marc on a course and ran some of my fastest miles with him. He’s very chatty and easy to talk to! I love being part of this amazing community! Thank you to Coach Marc for everything you do to bring awareness to those of us with IBD and inspire our training.
Marathon #65 – Recap