IBD Breaks Hearts and Shatters Dreams
Recently the internet blew up for names like Kathleen Baker and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor who both did very well in the Olympics despite living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. All that is well and good. I admit that my heart also swelled with pride seeing these two lovely ladies representing my disease to the world, overcoming obstacles, living their dreams and raising a ton of awareness in their wake.
Other peoples success stories can be discouraging
I love seeing success stories of people reaching their dreams while battling a disease. It is inspirational... at the same time, however, it can also be frustrating and discouraging. IBD has the tendency to stop you in your tracks and crush your soul. I know it did mine.
I really loved karate and was close to my black belt
I got actively involved in Shotokan Karate back in college when I was in my early 20’s. I instantly fell in love with the sport. I felt confident. Strong. Powerful. And my sensei told me I had a knack for it. Not only did I like the confidence it gave me... but it is also a beautiful art form.
I continued karate classes on through my late 20’s and I was well on my way to getting my black belt. I remember the day I became a brown belt. I felt accomplished. I had learned so many katas (forms) and learned how to spar to defend myself against an attacker. I participated in two competitions in which I got second place in my division. I was on top of the world.
So I got to work on learning my black belt katas. Empi, Bassai Dai, Hangetsu... of all the katas, Empi was my favorite because at the end there was a really cool spinning jump that I had mastered. I loved karate. There was no stopping me... or so I thought.
A diagnosis of ulcerative colitis took me away from karate
Six months before I was scheduled to get my black belt, I was hit with an ulcerative colitis diagnosis. I was too sick to go to class because I was weak, dehydrated and always running to the bathroom. Not to mention the severe anemia that required a blood transfusion. This was a massive blow.
Ever since I began taking lessons I dreamed of one day becoming a black belt. And now, I was too sick to get out of bed. My disease consumed me and I started to lose my sense of who I was. Most of my karate friends didn’t understand. My sensei, trying to either kick my butt or give me encouragement (I’m not sure which), told me that he had friends with Crohn’s and they were doing just fine. Well… if they were doing ok, what’s wrong with me? And my Mom has Crohn’s… she’s not even on any medications.
When I was finally able to get into remission, it was too late. I had moved away from my dojo to be closer to my then boyfriend, Dave. From 2011-2014 I was going through the roller coaster that is ulcerative colitis. I had good days and bad days... but mostly bad. On my good days I would try new dojos. None of them lived up to my standards. There will never be another Clinton Shotokan... I’m convinced of it.
Ulcerative colitis shattered my dreams
Not every athlete has a “success story” after diagnosis. And every success story has its struggles and tragedies. Everyone living with a chronic illness knows the battles we face. Many of us battle in silence.
Maybe one day I will get my black belt... or maybe I won’t. Right now, I’m in a good place in life... I’m living with a happy, healthy J-Pouch. Until then, I will keep my eyes and ears open as I search for a new dojo. Karate is in my blood. I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. UC shattered my dreams of becoming a black belt... but that doesn’t mean I am going to give up all hope. There is always hope.
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