Two days later and I’m still walking funny

Oh yes, my legs are still sore. But I don’t mind so much. That pain is simply the dull throb of accomplishment. I just ran my third half-marathon this past Sunday. It was the first of its kind to take place in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, so I was excited to be a part of the inaugural race. And somehow I was able to convince my husband to run with me for the first time! (First and last, I’m sure.)

race half-marathon rock'n'roll running jarrod hughes stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd blogI have been looking forward to this race for a long time. It’s the best training I’ve ever been able to put into one of my half-marathons. My previous two races I competed with Team Challenge to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. (You can find lots of posts on here about those races and my training for them.) My first race in Vegas I signed up for a little late and I was already training for a triathlon at the time, so I was behind from the beginning in my training. For my second half, in Virginia, I struggled a lot throughout the training. I had broken my wrist a few months before, so I had stopped running altogether prior to training for that race. Plus,  I was having a lot of joint and muscle pain, to the point that up to a couple of days before the race, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it. But some hot yoga, a deep tissue massage and a lot of praying later, I was able to make it the whole 13.1 miles and was only a few minutes off of my previous time.

But for this race, I wanted to put my best effort out there. I trained hard these past few months and I realized how un-fun it is to train in the winter. And while I did not totally keep to my training schedule, I feel very happy with the runs that I put in and the work that I did.

So this race for me was a chance to show what that hard work could do and to push past the times I had previously set.  And it was a little chaotic the morning we arrived at the race site. There were people everywhere! It was pretty evident that all 12,500 runners who had signed up for the race were there. But we made our way to the start line, waited in like 3 different bathroom lines and finally set off around 7:15 in the morning.

The beginning of the run felt good. We stayed together for the most part and set a really strong pace for the first few miles. But I see now that we may have come out a little strong in the beginning because we both hit a wall around mile 8 and ended up getting separated. But we pushed on.

It was a beautiful day for a race. About 75-degrees outside by the end of our time on the course, which is a bit warmer than anyone would prefer, but was still a nice day. The bigger problems were (1.) there was not a cloud in the sky, so the sun was just beating on your constantly and there was very little shade, and (2.) the course was so hilly! Now I spent most of my training at a local park that is a fairly hilly course, so I felt I was prepared for most any terrain, but man, there were way more hills than I expected. And it wasn’t all uphill, there was a lot of downhill, too, but in my opinion, that’s not much better. All I wanted the whole race was just some flat piece of road!

medal race half-marathon rock'n'roll running jarrod hughes stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd blog

I still felt good enough to keep up a slow run for the last mile and to crank out a sprint once the finish line was in site. It was so great to cross that line and to see my parents and my husband’s parents cheering me on as I crossed the finish line. And I was able to catch up with Jarrod a few minutes later.

My mom caught this picture of me as I was making my way over to them and I fills me with so much joy. It reminds me of why I do this. What I wrote about just a few weeks ago: I run because I CAN.

My ostomy behaved great all day and I did not have to make any pit stops in the middle of the run. I finished with a time of 02:21:05. That’s a full 10 minutes off my previous PR! 

Usually after my races, all I want to think about is doing nothing. (Actually after my last race I went ahead and had surgery two days later, so I literally did nothing for a while.) For the first time, this race left me with a feeling of “what’s next?” And while I don’t have an answer for that quite yet, I’m working on it…

Spending Easter in the hospital

It’s amazing to think how far we can come in just a few short years. On this day, just two years ago, I was sitting in a hospital bed on Easter Sunday. I was on day four of my second trip to the hospital within a week and probably my sixth hospitalization in as many months. I was worn down. I felt defeated. I wanted to fight, but I didn’t have much left. But more than anything, I was scared. I was scared of what it would mean to live my life without a colon, scared to go on with a bag stuck to my stomach.

ostomy nephew birthday sick illness memories stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd blogI wrote this post on that day in the hospital. It was for a fundraiser my friend was hosting on her blog that raised money for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis research. The picture I included was taken about two weeks before that hospital stay at my nephew-in-law’s first birthday. (I didn’t allow many pictures to be taken, so this is the only one I could find from around that time.) You may not know it from the picture, but I was able to hold him long enough to take that picture and had to quickly hand him over because my stomach could not take the stress. I also spent the rest of the party propped up on the couch because my knees and back were aching with arthritis so badly that I could hardly move.

It is, as I said, amazing to look back and remember those feelings that day. I will always remember them. But even more, I will always remember rising above them

—————

April 8, 2012

I am writing this from a hospital bed. It’s not where I imagined I’d be spending my Easter weekend, but I had a bad bout of symptoms kick up this past week and I ended up here. Now, I have to debate the possibility of losing my colon.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1999, when I was thirteen years old. For a couple of years preceding the diagnosis I dealt with symptoms including stomach pain, diarrhea and weight loss.  In 8th grade, my symptoms hit an apex. I was a tiny 75 pounds, and quickly dropped to down 50. I stopped going to school. I was constantly running to the bathroom. I was even blacking out at times, once almost falling down the stairs. I was admitted to the hospital and hooked up to all kinds of fluids and nutrients. After twenty-five difficult days of medicine and prayer, I was able to go home. It was a rough road to gaining weight and strength, not to mention trying to fit back in at school after missing half a semester.

I got back on my feet and spent five years with no symptoms, other than an occasional “flare up” that would last a couple of days. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I had another big Crohn’s related issue and landed in the hospital for the two weeks before Christmas. After that I spent several years teetering between flares. I’d have periods of symptoms and periods of normality. Then about the time I graduated, four years ago, things seemed to level off and my symptoms decided to stick with me constantly. Since then, I’m not sure that there has been one day I have not dealt with symptoms.

Crohn’s is an invisible disease. You don’t pass somebody on the street and know that they’re dealing with it. If you saw me at the mall, you’d never guess I had an issue. That’s because it attacks the gut, and those of us with Crohn’s have had lots of practice hiding it. Many people don’t realize the severity of the disease because its sufferers don’t often “look sick.” Crohn’s disease involves inflammation of the digestive tract, or “redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, heat, and disturbed function of an area of the body, especially as a reaction of tissues to injurious agents” (dictionary.com), i.e. when a sprained ankle swells up. But this inflammation is irritated by the food moving through the digestive tract leading to the pain, and the food is pushed through without nutrients being absorbed. Ultimately, there is diarrhea and often a loss of blood.

There are a number of medications out there, but many have severe long-term effects and some are so new that the long-term effects aren’t even known. Most Crohn’s medications were developed for other issues such as arthritis, psoriasis and even MS, which have similarities to Crohn’s.  No major medication has been specifically developed with Crohn’s sufferers in mind.

For me, I’ve run the gamut. I have tried about every medication possible, and have even done some alternative treatments such as diet and acupuncture. Nothing has seemed to work. So here I am, doing all I can to hold on to my colon and not lose a vital organ from my body. In my scenario, losing my colon means an ostomy bag.

Research for Crohn’s and other inflammatory Bowel Disease has come a long way in recent years. New medications are on the horizon and I continue to hope that a cure is within reach. I can’t say “thank you” enough to Reagan and Glory Tree Flowers for wanting to take part in something so needed and so close to me. I can only hope and pray that in the near future; someone else won’t have to be laying here wondering if they’ll be able to keep their colon.

I am nobody special

I really do like inspirational quotes. There are some people who are simply able to string words together in a beautiful way that can truly impact you and become a motivator to you. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Or in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I have definitely had times when I’ve been feeling kind of down and scanning through the pictures of quotes on Pinterest has helped give me that extra push I needed.

That being said, there are very famous quotes that may sound like an amazing revelation, but the more I think about it, I realize how untrue they are. I came across this one the other day and it made me stop and think…

you were given this life because you are strong enough to live it stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd ostomy blogThe moment I read it, I realized how many times I have heard this quote or the sentiment that it involves before, but perhaps worded a little differently. “God chose you because he knew you could handle it.” Or, “You are so strong. I could never had made it through what you’ve been through.” I don’t believe any of that.

I don’t believe that I was destined to have Crohn’s disease or have my colon removed. I don’t believe that there’s a God in heaven who is picking and choosing people who are going to live their lives battling sickness. I don’t believe I am stronger or braver or more suited for dealing with the issues I have than any other person on this planet.

But I do believe that our society has opened the doors for diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to come in. I do believe in God and in his ability to guide us through whatever mess we find ourselves in. I do believe that I am nobody special and that I have only done what any other person would do. I have pushed forward. I have smiled through the pain. I have scraped myself up off the floor and somehow put one foot in front of the other. I have found a way to keep moving. But that doesn’t make me special. That doesn’t make me stronger than anyone else. That makes me human.

We all have our things in life that knock us down and kick us while we are there. For me, that was Crohn’s disease. For others, it may be financial problems, or an abusive relationship, or a difficult child, or a learning problem, or a combination of things. But those people keep going.

And I know, if you were faced with the same issues I have been through, or if another person was given the same difficulties you have dealt with in your life, you both would do the same thing: You would keep living. And that’s what makes you strong enough for whatever this life gives you.

 

Arrivederci, inverno

I will never understand how the months continue to fly by so quickly that you hardly even notice them coming or going. It seems that every time I turn around I’m looking at another month and another set of things that need to be done in the following four weeks.

april spring flowers warm hot weather season stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd blog ostomy

On the bright side, however, Spring has finally decided to make its way to North Carolina. And it’s really coming on strong. I believe we got up to 86-degrees today. And while I usually do like a bit of more transition in between my seasons, I am not complaining about the heat because all I care about is the fact that the cold is gone! And I’m just hoping it’ll stay that way.

March was a little sad for me on here. I hate that I didn’t get the opportunity to write more on The Stolen Colon, but things have really picked up around here. But thankfully (and hopefully!) April is my last month, at least for the foreseeable future, where I have more things to do than I have time to do it in. So as long as I can make it through the next 30 or so days, I’ll be in the clear.

I have a few major events going on this month. I actually am heading out-of-town next week for a work trip in Florida and I will be gone for four days. Two days after I return is my third half-marathon race. And just two weeks after that is the Take Steps Walk for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and I am on the planning committee. And during all of this, I am having to conduct my research for my grad school project and getting the information ready to present as a final report. Needless to say, I am a little worried about being able to get it all done.

Usually in times like this, I just take a deep breath and take it a day at a time. But the fact that so many of the things going on this month need a lot of leg work and planning done beforehand, that practice doesn’t seem to be working well for me. I am having to think about three steps ahead and try to get as much done in each day as I possibly can.

There is good news, however. Well, first of all, let me say that none of this is bad news. These are all things that I really love and enjoy and I am so glad to be participating in all of them… I just wish they didn’t happen to be going on all at the same time. But I do have big plans for unwinding afterwards. My husband and I are planning our first trip to Europe!

As soon as we get to May, I have my final paper due that first week and then three days later we will be boarding a plane for Italy. I am so excited! We haven’t taken a big trip since our honeymoon and, like I said, this will be both of our first trips to Europe. And I am so looking forward to not worrying about anything that I need to be doing and just enjoying the history and the food… and the wine!

It’s going to be amazing. Although, I haven’t had much of a chance to really think about it because there are so many other things that need to be thought about right now. But in the back of my mind, I know that all I need to do is push my way through the next five weeks and prepare for an incredible trip.

  • The Stolen Colon
    • Plan things ahead of time so I don’t run out of time and not put up any new content.
  • Grad School
    • Finish research and interviews for my project.
    • Work in small amounts whenever I can so I’m not overwhelmed with too much all at one time.
  • Work
    • Enjoy my first work trip to Florida!
    • But don’t let the trip put me behind on everything else I need to do.
  • Training
    • Finish out the final two weeks of my training strong.
    • Run a great half-marathon! (And hopefully PR!!)
  • Personal
    • Work hard on the CCFA Walk for the next three weeks so we can put on an amazing fundraiser for Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis research.
    • Finish up planning for trip to Italy.
    • Find some time to breathe.

My last long run

ostomy running run exercise training half marathon race stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd blogI have almost completed my training for my third half-marathon coming up in April. I have at least made it through the hardest part of the training. I finished up with 11.15 miles running in the windy, rainy, freezing cold. I may have considered going a little further, but the weather prompted me to keep it shorter. Which is fine, considering that is longer than I have ever run in training before my other two halfs. I will now taper down a little for the next two weeks before the race. I’m actually pretty excited about this race. I have trained better than I did for the previous ones and I think this might be a good opportunity for me to PR. I’m at least hoping to break the 2:30 mark, which barring any injuries or something like that, I think I’m in pretty good shape to do.

I shot a quick video this morning as I was running, so I thought I’d share a little of my training with you! (The audio got a little messed up at the end… not exactly sure why, but oh well.)