why i smile.

what was the first thing you noticed about this picture?

what did you notice first?

what did you notice first?

1 week worth of meds? 1 years worth of medical records & insurance claims?

this photo captures the meds i take on a weekly basis. i should clarify not all of these are medications for crohns disease, but surely 75% of them are to counteract the side-effects of the medications that keep me alive. that keep me living. that keep me smiling.

there are many risks to the medications we take & ive experienced some very scary ones, some that have left damage & others that have made other drugs unsuitable for me to inject now.. but a life of Remission is worth the risk & that is something i will always believe until we celebrate a cure or a vaccine that could potentially prevent IBD or eliminate carrier risk.

at 17, entering college, i took upwards of 35 pills a day (12 just being pentasa). after months of taking so many pills a day, the sensation of putting any pill in my mouth made me puke almost every time. there were days i simply couldnt hold down the pills because it was just too much.

time is a blur, but within the next year i would return home every 4-6 weeks & receive #remicade infusions. my mom accompanied me to nearly every single one. soon the #infusion center felt like home & i would return on my own. & soon, i made my parents stop driving 8 hours on the weekends i needed infusions and asked if i was able to receive them in the hospital across the street from my dorm room. lucky for me, i did not have class on fridays, so i could wake up in my sweatpants, put on my jacket & walk across the street – on good days, i would study & the bad, i would try desperately to sleep despite the awful sounds i would hear, as i was across from the ER. years have come & gone, infusions turned into injections, then eventually back into infusions.

this photo captures many things, but the thing i want you to see is a smile. its a pretty simple thing to a lot of people – a smile in a picture. but pairing it with a representation of only a weeks worth of meds being chronically ill for over 10 years? to a person that gets it, they know how hard smiles can be to come by.

the 16 year old girl inside of me is roaring with jealously; the 17 yr old girl who had a terribly swollen face in her senior pictures is screaming. the 18 yr old girl with little self-esteem entering a new relationship wants to strange me. and still to this day, living as a 27 year old single woman with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, life is still a strange & terrifying thing to me. its still full of pill boxes, infusions, injections, hydration powders, nutrition supplements, sharps containers & pillboxes with timers built in…

but NOW, there is a smile. it might have taken 10,000 frowns & 10,000 other smile to get here, but im happy now. 10 years have passed – way more than 10 colonoscopies too. but in my journey, ive met amazing people whom i cannot put a numerical value on, only sentimental. ive met new friends that have had eerily similar diagnoses, received hand-written letters from across the globe & even ran a 1/2 marathon with Team Challenge Wisconsin and along the way, passed by & met/ran with members of teams all around the US who i still keep in contact with.

i have met new people, found peace with my #diagnosis & have even managed to change some lives along the way – even if only for a day. some people in the #IBDcommunity dont agree with the sense of humor i have & to them i say, thats okay! i advocate in different ways than others but doesnt make me any less credible & shouldnt make me any less happy.. and certainly shouldnt make me hold back on going after my dreams. im this way because i want to be & 10 years ago, i would have never had the emotional strength to go through scopes, hospitalizations, #infusions, injections & surgeries that required me to be in the most humiliating “jackknife” position. humor has always been my coping mechanism & if that means making fun of myself without the risk of hurting someone, i will.

im thankful to have been blessed with this curse. i know this life is not what my parents had intended for me, and certainly not what i envisioned it to be. but the truth is, i am beautiful because of it. all of the bad shit my disease has given me, its given me SO much more than i have ever deserved.

despite living with #IBD, i smile.

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#IBDselfie #IBDawarenessweek #inflammatoryboweldisease #crohnsandcolitisawareness #chronicillness #CCFA #crohnsdisease #ulcerativecolitis #crohns #colitis #autoimmunedisease #autoimmune #IBDfamily #CCFA #teamchallenge #myIBD #1in200 #iamjustone #purpleproject

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supporting a loved one with chronic illness – guest blog series (Mom)

by now, its safe to safe that my parents have a pretty good understanding of my struggles living with chronic illness. ive struggled for a long time being the only one in my immediate family that has the type of disease i have. no one is perfect & it would be unfair to expect them to understand every single level of what it is to live with a disease with no cure. understandably, there is a certain aspect of chronic illness that parents must face. its not just patients who deal with physical and emotional struggle. no parent wants to watch their child go through such a physically and emotionally demanding journey. countless times ive heard my parents say “if i could trade places with you and take away all of your pain, i would in a heartbeat.” 

at diagnosis, they witness physical struggle of their child’s body attacking itself. some feel guilt, as they are unable to control anything watching their children lie in a hospital wasting away. during treatment, they see their children being sedated, poked, biopsied, screaming in pain. watching helplessly, it is no wonder many parents of chronic illness patients deal with anxiety, depression and isolation. there are times when i am unable to verbally tell my parents im struggling with something, and in turn, it comes as anger or fear. sometimes it takes an angry outburst for me to even realized im stressed out about something. luckily, my parents do a great job of realizing this anger is unintentional and have been very forgiving to some of my anger.

in any given period of my life, there has been 2 people by my side, giving my unconditional love, support & encouragement through some of the most challenging moments in my life. if there are any two parents who deserve a gold medal for being the most deserving of the “patience” award, it would be my mom and dad. now that im back home, im less hesitant letting them know what i need help with. one week, it may be giving me a hand changing my sheets because it would take me an hour knowing how much my joints and muscles hurt. as a parent, i can imagine its a good feeling knowing that youre still needed even when your children are grown, and over the past year, ive really tried to let them know what kind of support i need instead of leaving them in the dark knowing im not feeling well. its still hard. i think it always will be. take steps walk 2011

ive asked my mom to give a perspective of my journey and some of the things we’ve gone through as a family. this is the beginning of my guest blog series, from the eyes of a parent:

“Kelly has been “special” since the day she was born. She was two weeks late and had to be induced.  She didn’t wanna face the world I guess.  After only an hour of labor, she came in kickin and screamin; our beautiful baby girl.  To be honest, she was a “she devil” from day one.  She was collicky baby.  The youngest in our family, with two older brothers, close together in age. She was always sick. Always.  She was hospitalized for virus when she was barely three months old.  She had casts on her legs, she had asthma, didn’t sleep thru the night(still doesn’t), didn’t require require much sleep, trashed and wrecked and ruined everything.  This is not an exaggeration!  She was destructive, she bit other people and we even caught her sneaking out back door as a toddler in middle of the night. She was always singing and talking. She was smart and vocal. She was a bossy and sassy little girl. (wonder where she got that from).

Looking back, I think we should’ve known something wasn’t right with her, but couldn’t pin point it.  I remember her getting lots of belly aches, not uncommon in our family, as irritable bowel syndrome runs in both sides of my family.  She missed functions, the graduation of eighth grade of her brother, family functions, & parties.  But not till junior in high school did we realize this was something more.  She went on cruise with family friends, and was sick the entire time.  She was sick before she left as well, but we thought just a bug. By the time she got home, she couldn’t keep anything down. We tried everything. We went to doctor and emergency rooms so many times. Test after test after test.  We heard “she is depressed” or “it’s all in her head”, or “its just stress”.   Listening to your daughter screaming at the top of her lungs as the ER doctor gave her her first ever cervical exam, we knew something was wrong.  We couldn’t touch her without sending her screaming.  If you so much as tapped her, it sent her thru the roof in pain, everything was so painful.  After going through one surgery at hospital for an ovarian cyst, the most wonderful Doctor in world came out to talk to Jim and I. This is same Doctor who literally carried her to wheel chair in his office and wheeled her himself down to hospital.  He said what we were afraid and knew already; the pain and all other symptoms were not at all related to the cyst.  Her bowels exploded in the operating room.  He knew then to call in our life saver, Dr. Ravi Kondeveeti.  He was GI specialist who really, saved her life.  He told us he thought he knew right away what was wrong with her.  After two weeks, in Intensive Care, after many, many tests and medications, we took her home.  She fainted in first half hour she was home).  I know she doesn’t remember most of this, as she was so very, very sick. 

Since then, she has had surgeries, injections, IVs and medications that have many, many bad side effects.  They don’t work, or if they do, they last for only a while.  As parents, it is very frustrating and breaks our hearts to know this is something she will live with forever.  I wonder if I passed this on to her?  No one has Crohn’s or colitis in our blood family, but our sister in law, has it. The only exposure we knew. She had it bad, had surgery for colostomy even.  She is a terrific role model for Kelly and doesn’t let anything get in her way. 

Is chronic disease expensive?  Hell, yeah!  Needing to come up with family deductible January 1st every year!  All the Dr visits, hospital stays, medications, broke the bank..  Now that Kelly is on her own, it makes me angry and sad to know, she will have tremendous medical bills, and we can only help so much.  We are lucky to have such good family support.  Her brothers have always been protective of her, it was actually touching how so when she was hospitalized. 

Many people don’t know about these diseases.  People say stupid things sometimes. I will never forget a friend of ours saw her steroid face and told her she’d gained quite a bit of weight, making fun of the way her face looked. Most people in the family and her friends, do know about the illness and are understanding.  Her sense of humor and potty  and poop mouth, are hysterical.  Her humor has had a way to get us through tough times hasn’t it? 

I hope and pray someday there is cure found.  Realistically, there are things she may not be able to do with this disease. Kelly may not have kids. She is terrified of passing this gene on.  She may never get married. It takes someone really special to handle this disease. She may never own a home, did you ever see her bill folder?

But…….  she does have an incredible sense of humor, a willingness to educate others on Crohn’s and Colitis, a strong will, an attitude that is so inspiring, a smile that melts your heart, a never ever give up attitude – tomorrow will be a better day attitude!  She is always researching and educating herself and others.  This may knock her down at times, but will never knock her out! 

Love you Prinnie!

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i love you, mom.

 

 

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