At reading the title of this article I’m sure you’re asking yourself two questions. First: what does the Marine Corps Marathon have to do with Gastroparesis? Second: what the heck is Gastroparesis? To answer your first question, I am what the Marine Corps Marathon and Gastroparesis have in common. At 23 years of age, I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis. This also makes me a perfect individual to tell you what it is. With this being my first article with Sunwarrior, I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you a little about myself.
Since 2008 I have been seeing a Gastroenterologist because I was having a lot of pain in my stomach/intestines and losing weight. I had symptoms similar to Crohn’s disease, but all the testing proved I did not have the actual disease. I was so excited to not have a lifelong disease that had no cure. Even though the doctors didn’t have answers, all my sickness did was cause random infections every 6–8 months with high fevers and the occasional trip to the hospital. It sounds like a lot, but if you ever researched Crohn’s Disease you’d understand why I was excited to not have it. Back in January of 2012 I went to see my GI doctor again because I was nauseous constantly. He did some blood work and more testing. Biopsies were done, Crohn’s was tested again, and the test was negative again. After going for another test, a gastric emptying study, I was told that I had Gastroparesis. I had no clue what this was and spent several days leading up to my appointment researching this condition. All that excitement over not having Crohn’s only to find out I now had an incurable, irreversible, untreatable condition where food is my enemy.
I didn’t take my diagnosis very seriously at first because the only symptom I was experiencing was a little constant nausea, which my doctor gave me medication for. I LOVE running so I started training for a half marathon in August 2012 and was so excited that I could train even though I was technically “sick.” As the weeks of training went by, I noticed I was getting sicker and sicker and couldn’t run as much on some days and I kept getting more behind in my training. I hadn’t given up though; I was going to decide the day before the race if I would try to run the 13.1 miles or not. I wish I could say that I overcame everything and was able to do it, but I wasn’t.
Due to the Gastroparesis I hadn’t been able to eat much and had lost 10lbs in 10 days. Imagine being so hungry you want to eat everything in sight but feeling like you have the stomach flu when you eat; this is the daily life of someone with Gastroparesis. I was shaky, nauseous, dizzy, and was having random twitching and tremors. Instead of running my first half marathon I ended up in the Emergency Room. It turns out my blood pressure was about 100/45, and my potassium and magnesium were low. Instead of running my first half marathon I went for my first Gastroparesis related hospital visit.
Fast forward 18 months and where am I? I’m not cured by any means; I’ve actually been told I have no other medical options and am worse. But I’ve learned how to be happy and take care of myself in spite of the condition.
In March 2013 I completed the Marine Corps 17.75K (11.03 miles) and I’m signed up for the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon (26.2 miles)! This is a big deal for me and I’ve had to overcome a lot to get to where I am today. Many gastroparetics don’t participate in higher intensity activities such as running because it exacerbates our condition.
I’ve had to spend a lot of time learning about nutrition and how to get my body what it needs. I’m a firm believer in blending and juicing and love supplementing my intake with protein powders. It’s all about finding balance and eating clean for me. One day, one choice, one bad decision can impact how I feel for a week. Sometimes it’s worth it, like days when I just want to go out with friends and feel normal; most times it isn’t. I still have days where I can’t run because I haven’t been able to eat, but I try not to let this bring me down.
Since I was diagnosed, I live in a world where I try to be grateful for everything. I try not to get frustrated with friends who keep telling me about random things I should try to get better, or the coworker who asks if I’m on a diet because I drink most of my meals. I try to comfort the waiter who thinks the food is bad because it looks like I didn’t eat anything. I try to be grateful that everyone’s conversation with me starts with, “How are you feeling?” instead of being mad that they even have to ask. I live in a world where I am faithful, and I try. I have no option other than to try and stay positive. Giving up would mean losing the cheery, bubbly, loving person that I am…and I refuse to let Gastroparesis take that from me.