thankful

imagesi have so much to be thankful for, but since this blog was intended to be about a crazy girl training for a half-marathon while living a functional life with IBD.. lets start there.

1) im thankful i have legs.. not only to literally carry me through life, but to give myself the challenge of using the body God gave me to complete this mission. ive had the honor most of my adult life to work with those who are not as privileged as me both physically & mentally. more recently in my career, ive had the opportunity to provide individuals a chance to participate in athletic events they would ordinarily not be physically able to through an organization called myTeamTriumph. through use of adaptable running strollers, individuals with disabilities (“Captains”) are able to participate in real events (and even marathons & triathlons!) through able-bodied athletes from our community (“Angels”). as an Angel, you are the Captains “legs”. sadly, many people do not know the extent of people in their community with severe disabilities. this organization has done an amazing job of bringing light to this by bringing joy to these Captain’s lives & giving them the chance to participate in road races & cross finish lines. you cant help but notice the contagious spirit; because of this, volunteers in our community are more involved in these individuals lives. a fire ignited inside of me seeing how this organization serves this population in such a unique, amazing way. crossing a finish line – something i took for granted all my life until we’d actually crossed the finish line running my 1st race with a Captain. my career heavily involves me encouraging others to advocate for themselves; this organization inspired me to do something better with my life & how i choose to advocate for myself. im thankful for myTeamTriumph for starting a fire under my tush to get the #purpleproject going. i have done 5k’s, 10k’s & most recently, a half-marathon. Christian, Tiffany, Katie, Daniel, Jim.. the whole crew: thank you for helping others put their lives in perspective & honorably serving such an amazing population. thank you for inspiring me each day to reflect on how i can serve others better.

2) im thankful for support – i have an amazing support group to help me through some difficult tests life has given me. each of them provides me with a different type of encouragement or support that gives me hope to keep truckin in the hardest of times. im thankful for the big & little things these people continue to do for me on a daily basis. im thankful for an amazing organization, CCFA – Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, providing me support i needed at a very low time in my life. ive grown so much because of the encouragement i was provided & opportunities ive been given (Honored Hero @ Miller Park, filming an Aha Moment commercial, being involved with raising funds through Take Steps and Team Challenge.) the support i have received in the last 10 years since my diagnosis has been the reason i am now comfortable to talk about my conditions in public. there is no way a 20 yr old Kelly could openly talk about daily struggles of physical pain & also how much it can take a toll on your emotional health.. which leads me to #3

3) im thankful for my humor – years ago, it wasnt widely accepted to talk about a disease involving such personal details like someones restroom habits & my personal favorite, cameras up your butt! (do you know what the inside of yours looks like?) anyone who knows me, knows humor is my coping mechanism. im very much an introvert, but tend to deal with my anxieties with humor. i have a pretty sick sense of humor, but it doesnt take much to make me laugh. i am SO thankful i have not lost my laughter.

4) im thankful ive learned to advocate for myself, while helping others do the same – though my body has seen its fair share of setbacks, im extremely blessed. ive learned to accept that my life will continue to have its challenges. currently, there is no cure for the type of disease i have, but i know there will be a day im able to say “i used to have crohns”. without a positive attitude, there is no doubt in my mind i would lead a very bitter life of denial. what other choice do i have? there is nothing that affirms my life purpose more than when i get a message from a stranger living with Crohn’s or Colitis, especially the age i was diagnosed at. providing someone hope, courage & a new opportunity to change their disposition about their disease will help them accept things. its taken me almost 10 years to learn to accept the life i was blessed to be given & im still learning to accept it, especially on bad days.

5) im thankful for my faith – post-diagnosis, there are many stages you go through, just like mourning. i certainly have gone through stages of resentment in the past 10 years, selfishly asking “why me?” that stupid cliche “things happen for a reason… God places burdens on those who are able to carry the weight..” well, theyre true; it just depends on whether youre willing through that baggage over your shoulder & learn to adapt your life having it present. i choose hope because i know He is with me.

lastly, i am thankful for you.. my facebook, instagram, twitter & social media/blog family, who have made such an impact in my life & given me inspiration to continue this journey through a website. thank you for letting me be comfortable in my own skin. i am forever grateful. #thankful

xox Kelly

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7 things ive learned from colonoscopies (living with IBD)

  1. the prep isn’t great, but gets better with time – no matter what of prep youre prescribed, its not fun guzzling gallons of icky chemicals & chasing them with what will result in you will always relate to as your colonoscopy prep.  ive learned after my first few CT scans that i will never drink tang again.  it is totally a mental game & i admit, i want to forfeit every time.  is there vodka in this??WOOF. the gurgly belly, the bubbles, praying youll keep down the prep, feeling like an oompa loompa.  its a good thing i went ahead about organized myself a prep kit: stock of good TP, wipes/cream, new comfortable fuzzy pants, 100% charged iPad & a wonderful mixture of powdered gatorades, koolaids and flavored clear juices.  i recommend having the drinks already pre-measured so you feel more comfortable and dont find yourself mixing another drink and having to be somewhere else at the same time ;). (poor gatorade – i bet that company never knew IBDers would never want to look at another yellow liquid ever again)
  2. buy the good TP.
  3. dont drink soda – as terrible as it is, use a mix (powdered gatorade) you can add to the prep drink that you will ONLY associate with prepping for a colonoscopy.  i use yellow gatorade mix. only use bubbly soda (sprite) as a chaser to get the taste out of your mouth, not a large glass that counts as 8 oz. there will be enough bubbles in your tummy, dont make it worse.
  4. humility – the chance of you leaving your procedure with all of your pride is slim to none, but having sedation helps progress the memory loss. speaking of humility, i will never forget the one time i had a rude nurse tell me that i “had an accident on the table” for better lack of words. clearly that wasnt my intention, but ive never forgotten how that made me feel. lets be honest, the day your diagnosed with any bowel disease, you find yourself throwing your humility out the window. 10 years ago, it may not have been widely-accepted to talk openly in public about a bowel disease, but as an advocate not only for myself, but also for others, i feel responsible to inform people, no matter how humiliating or hard it may be to answer some questions.
  5. reality – the level of control from the start of the prep to the finish of the procedure makes you feel extremely vulnerable.  from having no control of your bowels to waking up having (mostly) no recollection of the room you were just violated with a camera in front of several hospital staff.. when it comes down to it, it can be a very scary thing to face.  GI appts are terrifying for me (and anyone with a Disease) – i think ive left every appointment ive ever had in tears only because walking out of the doctor’s office, its hard to deny having a disease you have no idea where it could take you next.  all of the pictures of ulcerated intestines, types of infections & things that could possibly go wrong – theres no way to block out some of the images.  ive had several episodes of crazy anesthesia-induced panic attacks going under/coming out of anesthesia that makes me terrified.
  6. find something to do during the lengthy process – most people without bowel disease i’m sure are thankful their preps go much smoother than those of us with issues. in my case this time, i was on a liquid diet at least 2 weeks before my procedures. everything i ate made me sick & i was terrified i would not be cleaned out. as was the case in other scopes.. my actual prep process lasted about 24 hours running to and from the bathroom. thank God for iPads & modern technology. the first few times i had colonoscopies, i had no access to anything i could take to the loo but a handheld solitaire game. thankfully, my brother lent me his netflix password so at least ive been able to do something productive with my time (shark movies, Breaking Bad) – thanks Justin!
  7. who you have at your side when you are put under and who is there when you wake up is probably the most important thing.  anytime anesthesia is involved in a procedure, there are risks.  having that one person that can look you directly in the eye in the most terrifying of moments when something goes wrong, is the most comforting feeling in the world.  thanks dad.

so i ran a half marathon..

i DID it!

with everything going on recently with my health and some of the tests ive had done over the past month or so, there’s been little time left for me to go out and just enjoy a good run. i haven’t felt good, ive had zero energy and had let myself go quite a bit on my regular routines overall day to day. im a creature of habit, so when life throws a curve ball at me, it’s just as hard for me to try to change my routine as it is to initially develop one.

this past weekend i had the opportunity to do a “virtual race” for Team Challenge, an endurance group organized through the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America that focuses on fundraising while training for various race events.  a group im affiliated on facebook sent an opportunity a little around a month ago to run a “virtual run” with them so i took the opportunity & ran with it 😉

while i may not have been able to join my friends in the “Rock n Roll” Vegas on the strip to run the half with Team Challenge, i’m glad i was given the opportunity to do it with them in heart. so, using Charity Miles, i ran myself to the point of exhaustion.  i havent been on a long run in ages & when i had, most time ive been stopping to do intervals or just running slow and steady.  i did mine on the treadmill & think because of my adrenaline pumping and my end goal in site, my first Team Challenge medal, i had it in me.  i had an awesome 10k – 58 minutes!! holy cats that is great for me! my first 10k race in chicago i had gotten just above an hour.  i finally got under! (probably due to the fact where i put the treadmill at a high pace and challenged myself more instead of changing up speed constantly on the roads i regularly run on daily).  it felt great – until mile 8.  i kept telling myself – just run the rest like you’re running a 5k.. all it’s going to take is a simple 5k.  i dont know how i did it, but i did.  just around the 2 1/2 hr mark.

it was not so comical trying to walk up and down the steps the next two days.. but SO worth it. i truly needed something like this to turn my spirits around since ive been feeling pretty crummy. im already looking forward to my next real road race.

13.1 & done!

I’m Still Me

i would say in my lifetime, ive been at least 3 different people living inside one body. 1.there was pre-diagnosis kelly – uneducated & niave. if you would have asked me what i knew what chronic disease meant, i would not have been able to form any sort of response.  i didn’t know what it meant to be empathetic, only sympathetic. big difference. 2. then there was post-diagnosed kelly. this kelly was lost for a long time. i didn’t have a lot of friends to lean on that knew exactly i was going through. i felt like i was living in someone else’s body that was not my own. i felt most alone in my entire life during this time.. until i had met some amazing life-long friends at my CCFA-WI chapter. this brings me to today. 3. im not sure that present kelly has a special name like “pre or post diagnosis”, because im constantly learning things everyday; about my diseases, mostly about myself.

post diagnosis: in college, i was lucky enough to have roommates that understood i didnt feel well a lot of the time. there are many times a day when i am in a visible flare that i hear comments about my appearance.  99% of my friends know i deal with a “type of condition” that causes me to have severe pain and periods of time that i may be sick enough to visit the hospital for several days at a time. they may not have understood the disease, but they understood i didnt feel well & they treated me well – stayed in with me and watched movies, played video games and did fun things that didnt always involve eating or drinking.  that being said, there were of course, and always will be, people who never understood my condition, and that has been a challenge for me.  i was far from being the normal college student: i had a huge tupperware container full of prescriptions & had to carry around a pill box that beeped every 4 hours to remind me to take my pills.  at this time of my treatment, i was easily taking upwards of 30 pills a day. i kept my huge storage bin of prescriptions hidden most of the time so they wouldn’t get stolen and so i wouldnt look like a drug addict! in addition to the prescriptions, i began receiving IV therapy (Remicade) once a month which required me to visit the hospital for 6 hours while the drug was being infused.  this drug made me tired, sore & cranky. still, my roommates were accepting. “fun kelly” was able came out to play sometimes, and when she did, it felt liberating to know that i was still able to do some of the things other college kids did.  “fun kelly” still comes out to play sometimes, but as ive aged, many priorities have changed. i would rather sit in on a friday night drinking tea, watching a movie than going out and being social. i still love to play nintendo. secretly, the things we did as kids are the things that still make me the happiest. yes, i have peter pan syndrome! overall, i had the choice to let crohns rob me of many things growing into a grown adult, but i did not let it take my youth.

one thing i know for sure: a huge part of who i am today is a result of the two…. im so much more today than i was then. im much more aware about my surroundings and the world i live in.  im sure a lot of that has to do with maturing and growing with age, but due to being diagnosed with something as scary as i was at such a young age, i was forced to mature quickly. i left pieces of myself along the way, good and bad. but today im able to advocate for myself. autoimminue disease is a daily battle, and one must be willing to fight for their bodies every day, knowing that some days you may not come out on top. still, you have the choice to become a victim of it, or rise above it and find new ways to make you stronger. im not a naive 17 year old anymore with no knowledge of my diseases. although i may never understand the wonders of the human body or why i have a genetic disease that no one else in my family suffers from, i understand the most important thing:

throughout this all, i may have strayed away from my true self at times, but i never lost myself completely. I’m still me.

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