Like many people that are diagnosed with an incurable disease, I was in shock when I realized I had Crohn’s. The stomach pain that I had endured for a greater part of my life finally had an explanation. I had been told by doctors for years that nothing was physically wrong with me and that stress and poor diet were likely the culprit of my “rotten gut” syndrome. It’s an all too familiar situation for many people that suffer for years with IBD before being taken seriously.
For me, my intestine actually had to perforate and leave me septic for a correct diagnosis to be made. After a slow recovery process, I knew I had to do something about the lack of awareness of Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. If this happened to me it had happened to thousands of people all over the world. That’s when I found Get Your Guts in Gear.
After a year of battling with my rotten gut, I was finally in remission (sans two feet of intestine). I’d never felt better. I knew it was time to mentally and physically prepare to begin two things that I had never done before, ride my bike in a long distance cycling event and talk about how my disease had nearly killed me.
After a year of hospital visits, two surgeries, a colonoscopy, two sigmoidoscopes, small bowel follow-through’s, two CT scans, one endoscopy, multiple doctor appointments and drug trials, my body was incredibly weak. My first training session lasted only six miles. It was slightly discouraging but I continued to push myself each day until I was able to ride 50+ miles on the weekends….for fun. Throughout my training and fundraising, the staff at GYGIG was incredibly supportive and helpful. They gave me some great fundraising advise and continually assured me that I can and will be able to finish the ride.
Upon my arrival in Washington, I immediately met a fellow rider named Ruth. We quickly figured out we both had Crohn’s and were both were incredibly nervous to ride our bikes 210 miles. We made plans to elaborate on our brief conversation in 20 min. in the hotel hot tub. This, my first experience meeting another human being with Crohn’s, was great. Listening to her story was the first step in my emotional recovery process. Not only had Ruth been living with Crohn’s successfully, she was able to give birth to a beautiful daughter the year before she registered to ride in a Get Your Guts in Gear event. This gave me the hope and the reassurance I needed to begin living my life more fully rather than constantly being afraid of getting sick again.
The entire 3 days was filled with people equally as incredible as Ruth. The camaraderie I experienced was like nothing I’d ever been a part of before. It was amazing to hear peoples stories about their disease and how they overcame the stigma of IBD. I had stopped feeling so ashamed and embarrassed about my faulty guts and began to feel relieved that there were so many of “us” out there. I was even able to crack some bathroom jokes with the seasoned GYGIG riders. This experience is what kept me coming back to participate in these events. Without it I may not have mentally or emotionally been able bounce back from the trauma of the severe Crohn’s catastrophe I went through the year before.
Throughout the years of being a part of the GYGIG community, I’ve come across so many people that have said GYGIG changed their life and view of having a gastrointestinal disease. It has not only become an event for old friends to gather at but a complete support system for those suffering with their disease, those in remission, and for those that have family and friends battling IBD. GYGIG definitely helped me through a dark time in my life. I was able to turn something negative into something positive and I credit that to all the wonderful staff and community members I’ve met throughout the years. It really is “more than a ride” and anyone that participates in a GYGIG event will figure out exactly what that means.