Marathon #4 – 26.2 for Michael
What is my story? I find it hard to even answer that question. I think about the many months leading up to my diagnosis—the excruciating, unrelenting, and crippling pain that blotted out all of the colors from my life, consuming me. I recall the exhausting week leading up to hearing, for the first time, that I had Crohns—a welcomed answer to all of the mystery. I remember my determination to be treated as an outpatient, and my reluctance to admit myself into the hospital. I remember the 13 days I spent writhing in a hospital bed, shedding some intestinal lining, getting MRIs, the attempted colonoscopies, the 50 or so pounds lost, adjusting to a PICC line and TPN, the morphine and steroids, the humiliating moments and humbling ones—I remember the day I sat by the hospital window and felt the warmth of the sun breathe some life back into me.
For the 3 months after I was discharged I wouldn’t eat; being fed by a permanent IV, I didn’t have to. I was afraid to eat again since all I had come to know was “eating equaled pain.” I can track the weight of the situation lifting as began the journey to remission, and I can feel the ownership of my struggle with me today. But I would hesitate to say this is my story…
I think my story began when I got better. Maybe a part of this is just a bit of my personality, but shying away from my Crohns and experience was never something that crossed my mind. In that openness, I found something grim. In my celebration of IBD and the power to overcome, I encountered pity and shame. Now, I will never be the one to brush off IBD as no big deal, but I will always be the one to model a positivity that went unfound in my first months with Crohns. When I told others about my disease, I was always met with sadness about how much it must suck. The negativity stuck around. Even at my first support group for IBD, the negativity reigned. IBD does suck. And sometimes I do need to go down a negative spiral, but I’ll be damned if I stay down there. Much like the pain, negativity blots out the color from our lives. It’s our choice to bring the color back. That’s when I discovered a very bright orange.
On a whim, I picked up running to lose some TPN weight and see what all the fuss was about. Not really being able to lift or move much for 3 months, I was itching to do anything. In this newfound love of running, I found Team Challenge (the orange of which I speak) and the Crohns & Colitis Foundation. Within those communities was a balance of understanding and positivity, and a family that helped foster and spread the will-to-overcome that I thought didn’t exist outside of my time in the hospital. Running, and especially running with them, was a ritual that honored my fight. Facing down a long run mirrored facing down Crohns. Every time I finish a run I’m reminded that the impossible is possible.
With them, I ran my first two half marathons—a feat that I had never in my life thought I would want to or be able to do. During my time in New Orleans, I was honored by being asked to emcee the pre-race pasta party, and that was the first platform I was given to talk about this positive energy and mindset that eradicated my IBD stigmas and benefited my health. The next day I ran the half wearing that color orange and, when my legs were truly suffering and I realized I wouldn’t meet my time goal around mile 9, Marc began to run alongside me. How nice it was to realize that no matter how much we struggle, we are never alone. That there is always someone to support you. With IBD, it’s the same. We’re never alone, even though it is our deeply personal journey. I asked him, “Will you still be proud of me?” Before I made another footfall, he said, “Of course.”
So my story is about me discovering the pilot light that burns in all of us—the tiny flame, never extinguishing, that sparks our will to live, fight, and overcome. It’s the story of someone who feels it so strongly that he hopes to help others discover this too. I know my outlook has had immeasurable positive effects on my journey with Crohns, and all I’ll ever want to do is spread that love. My story isn’t over, either. I still have Crohns, I’m still treated, and I still have my good and bad days. But I’ll keep at it; I’ll keep adding the color to my life besides the odds. I’m even running my first marathon in April. I’ll keep taking the moment to feel the sun’s warmth because of that day by the window, and I’ll keep running because it reminds me not of the hardship, but of the triumph.
Running 26.2 for Michael!
Marathon 4 – Recap