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    Posted December 3, 2012 by
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    CNN Fit Nation: 2013 Triathlon Challenge

    No Guts, No Glory - Life Without a Colon

    Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a greedy disease. Like many of my fellow Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) sufferers, UC has taken much from me.

    Diagnosed in 1997 when I was just 19, UC robbed me of my initial college experience. After becoming suddenly and intensely sick, I was forced to take medical leave from Indiana University during my sophomore year and move back in with my parents. UC took a large portion of my early adulthood. After countless hospitalizations, medications and procedures I was forced to have emergency surgery to remove my bleeding, inflamed colon before it ruptured. UC took my physical strength. Blood transfusions, broken bones, mono, pneumonia, incontinence, painful joints, significant weight loss followed by significant weight gain, major abdominal surgeries and a temporary ileostomy left me physically weary and nearly defeated. Nearly.

    UC took my large intestine and left me with a j-pouch in its place. The steroid prednisone, commonly used to keep IBD symptoms in check, took my formerly athletic frame and left me with a body that had alarmingly thin bones, joint and back pain, swollen cheeks, rapidly thinning hair and almost 90 extra pounds. Fifteen years after diagnosis, every day is a struggle. I deal with flares of pouchitis, bowel obstructions, fatigue, pain and bathroom urgency and frequency.

    UC tried to snatch motherhood from me, too. Complications, scar tissue and adhesions from surgery prevented easy conception. I lost my babies before I could meet them, too many times. Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy left me hospitalized with a bowel obstruction. Loss became too frequent an occurrence in our lives.

    To be fair, UC gave me so much more than it could ever possibly hope to take.

    UC gave strength to my relationships. Three months before becoming ill, I had started dating the boy who I would later marry. We spent the first two years of our relationship nearly 2,000 miles apart; he in Arizona and I in Indiana. When I had emergency surgery, he jumped on the first flight he could book and never left my side. And while my parents didn’t have a lot of money, they never wavered in their conviction in getting me the best medical practitioners they could. They watched their middle child go through unimaginable pain and very nearly lost me forever to complications during my second bowel surgery.

    UC taught me perseverance. After treatment, I became the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. I have spent the last 14 years working in the non-profit world and currently serve as Vice President of Business Operations for a local cancer agency serving low income, uninsured/underinsured individuals dealing with cancer.

    UC reinforced my natural optimism. During the darkest times, I never forgot to be grateful. I thought of those whose situations were more dire than my own. I was thankful for my family. I was fortunate to have kind and extremely skilled doctors, surgeons and nurses taking care of me. I felt lucky to have lived such an amazing 19 years. I was thrilled to still be alive. And I was so grateful for those times when I was pain-free.

    UC gave me motherhood in a way I never imagined. After losing our second pregnancy in 2004, my husband and I began to pursue adoption via the foster care system. We were lucky to be placed with our daughter in 2006 when she was 8 months old. Our beautiful daughter who faced challenges from birth because of prenatal circumstances over which she had no control. I’m happy to report that at 7 years of age, she is just as much of a sassy survivor as her mom!

    I would love the opportunity to participate in the 2013 Fit Nation Challenge. I want to show my family that they were right not to give up on me during my battle. I want to model that strength, gratitude and optimism for my daughter. And for so many others.

    With my Fit Nation blog, I plan to reach folks in the Midwest and beyond with my experiences, message and lessons. I want be part of the conversation to reduce the stigma around UC and other Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. I want to educate, lead by example and motivate others to eat better and move more to reduce their risk for disease while improving health and quality of life.

    Most of all I want to do this for me. I want to take back my power. I want to regain my physical strength. I want to cross that finish line in Malibu.

    UC gave me more than it knew. Empathy. Determination. Strength.

    It did not break me. It made me stronger.
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