Obamacare Must Be Replaced

As more and more discussions happen around the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it’s important to keep perspective of what the ACA did to benefit patients with chronic illnesses. I stand with many other Americans in favor of keeping and fixing Obamacare. We aren’t delusional. We know it’s not perfect. But it is the most progressive reform patients with chronic illnesses have seen, maybe in their lifetime. Is it fair that we lose the benefits that were granted to us through this piece of legislation?

I’m falling deaf ears, aren’t I?

Well, if Congress refuses to fix, let’s urge Congress to simultaneously pass a suitable replacement that will maintain insurance coverage. Specifically:

  • Stability in coverage be maintained by accompanying any repeal effort with a replacement that meets the needs of the 117 million Americans living with one or more chronic illnesses;
  • Discrimination against patients with pre-existing conditions continues to be prohibited;
  • Young adults can remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26;
  • Out-of-pocket spending is limited and lifetime annual caps are prohibited; and
  • Insurance coverage meet certain design standards to combat discrimination and ensure that patients have access to the treatments, services, and provider network they need.

Use your voices! Please call your members of Congress and share this information with them. It will take 15 minutes of your day, but will benefit patients like me for a lifetime.

How I became an advocate

We just finished another successful Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week. I had the pleasure of joining amazing patients in Washington, DC to share my story of living with Crohn’s disease. I met with health aids responsible for working with members of Congress to protect the rights of patients and ensure adequate funding is set aside for IBD research. My eyes were opened to this wide world of IBD patient advocacy. I realized my journey as an IBD advocate began many years ago; I also realized becoming an advocate is as simple as sharing your story to benefit as many patients as possible.

Jump shot in front of the Capitol building

As a child diagnosed at age seven, I’ve had many years to come to terms with my disease. However, many of those years were spent keeping my disease fairly close to my chest. It’s not that I hid my disease – those close to me were familiar with my health issues. But it was my disease to deal with. I didn’t want to burden others with the barrage of symptoms, the bad days, the doctor visits.

The turning point

It wasn’t until I became sick in 2006 that I became more vocal. I was so sick that I couldn’t hide the severity of symptoms from my friends, my classmates, my professors, even complete strangers. Twenty years old and I completely relied on a walker, suffered from severe skin issues, eye issues, joint pain. My personal relationships were strained because I needed a caregiver. My grades were plummeting because I couldn’t attend class (which is a huge issue when you’re studying for your master’s degree).

I had to speak up. I had to explain that my life was being controlled by Crohn’s – I had doctor’s to visit, medications to pick up, physical therapy sessions to attend. No one was going to understand until I made it clear that I have special circumstances. After this, I refused to hide my disease.

I found being upfront about my disease made issues easier to deal with if they popped up (which they usually do). I was vocal about my disease at my first job after graduate school (not during the interview, for obvious reasons) and I found that most people wanted to know more, wanted to know how they can support me. People would send information just in case I wasn’t aware or ask me how I’m feeling “these days.” These simple gestures spoke more to me than anything.

It’s about millions of patients

I started hearing more stories, demonstrating how widespread IBD really is. “Oh, my aunt has UC” or “I have a friend with Crohn’s” became more and more common. I would share my own story and the responses I received were incredible. All of a sudden, I was helping people understand how they can support their family members or their friends.

At the same time, I joined Team Challenge and became more involved with CCFA. All of a sudden I was surrounded by dozens of incredible people just like me but many weren’t comfortable sharing their story. They were recently diagnosed, new to this IBD world, or they had experienced injustices, causing them to close this aspect of their lives to others.

I can be their voice.

It hit me like a bolt of lighting. Even if I can’t directly help them achieve remission, I can help them come to terms with their disease. I can be their voice. I can offer support, provide advice, share a hug, lend a hand. I can educate myself about patient rights. I can learn what research efforts are underway and how funding is determined. I can call my Congress representatives and have a voice for all patients living in Colorado. I can put my name on those petitions to create more transparency within insurance companies.

If my time in Washington taught me anything, it’s that our elected officials are there to represent the people they serve. And I am one of those people and I can help represent the thousands of others just like me. Since coming home from our day of advocacy, I connected personally with my representative and my two senators. I am engaging in the conversations happening on their social media profiles. I am becoming a squeaky wheel and when we have enough squeaky wheels, we’re going to be incredible difficult to ignore.

Get started

Now is the time. All you have to do to get started is raise your voice. Eventually the paths to larger support will make themselves evident if you just keep your eyes and ears open.

Damn You Fatigue

Tired ShrekNine hours of sleep not enough? How about nine hours plus two naps a day? Nope, still not enough. Fatigue might be the WORST of the Crohn’s symptoms. I can handle lots of poops. I can take meds to help with the pain. There is nothing I can do to help the fatigue.

I struggle walking up the steps to go to the bathroom.

I struggle walking my dog around the block.

I struggle focusing at work and completing my ever-growing gotta get it done list.

I headed to Crossfit on Wednesday knowing it would take everything I had to finish the workout. The workout was a grinder – 5 rounds of 60 double unders, 40 squats and 20 calories on the rower.

I made it through two rounds. TWO rounds. And then I fell apart. Not to the point where I could just take a breather, but almost in tears because I have nothing left to give. You know what happens next. Crying while working out is impossible. Hyperventilation ensues on the row machine. One pull, breath, two pulls, get your crap together woman, one pull, dear god will this be over soon?

Finally I collect myself, only making a fool of myself to the coach, and continue on with the workout. It takes me almost 28 minutes but I finished. And not last, I might add.

Crohn’s may interrupt my life, but it won’t defeat me.

Overcoming Our Monsters

monstersIt was a beautiful spring day when the monsters came, their arrival signaling the start to a very long and difficult weekend. With sharpened claws and bared teeth, they slowly started to rip away at my insides – small pokes growing into a full assault until I didn’t I could keep them at bay any longer. Finally, crawling, I made my way into the safe house, happy to see it free of other visitors. With every last ounce of might I could muster, I vanquished the monsters but not before they had left me wounded and defeated, slowing retreating back to the outside world where my stadium seat and husband were waiting.

I’m one of the few lucky patients that rarely experience urgency issues or painful diarrhea associated wtih Crohn’s disease. The unfortunate drawback is that I typically experience symptoms outside of the gut – arthritis pain being the most common. When joint pain is the worst of my problems, I can usually make it through life without many complaints

But lately these monsters have been making more frequent visits into my universe. Their sharp teeth and claws tearing away at my insides creating some of the worst urgency issues I’ve ever experienced with only one possible outcome.

During the game my mind wondered to this latest event. I had went for a 15 mile bike ride earlier that day – what if the monsters found me at the side of Platte River? What if I have to make a bee-line to the restrooms that are more than a dozen rows and a section away? What other precarious situations will I find myself in when another emergency pops up?

This is, in my opinion, one of the worst things about having Crohn’s disease. As hard as you try, there is always the chance it will rob you of experiences and there is nothing you can say or do to change that. I don’t like when Crohn’s starts to dictate my daily planner. I hate when I have to succumb to the will of those monsters.

Right now the best I can do is to carry the necessary reinforcements with me at all times and try to avoid any foods I know will cause undue stress. Maybe it is time to really restrict my diet. Because these monsters need to stay away.

Cute monster photo credit: Monsters Inc. Wikia
W
hy can’t all monsters be this adorable!?

Rudolf Ramble 5K race recap

Another year, another RunDenver winter series! This is by far my favorite race series, even though I’m usually met with frigid winter temps, lots of ice, and lots of snow.

This year though has blessed us with terrific weather to start the series. Yesterday’s above average 55 degrees made for perfect running weather by the 10am start. They changed the theme a bit this year – the search for Rudolf! As an adult, I loved it, so I’m sure all the children in the race field was overjoyed at the prospect of helping Santa Clause find Rudolf. And yes, Santa was there helping in the search!

Finishers at the Rudolf Ramble 5K 2016
Finishers at the Rudolf Ramble 5K 2016

I’ve been trying to recover since Thanksgiving with a horrible cold and cough so I was anticipating plenty of walking during this 5K. A couple of coughing fits pushed me to the curb but I pressed on and overall had a really great race. I maintained what felt like a pretty even pace and at no point was I ready for the stretcher to haul me to the finish. I ran without a watch but did have Christmas music in my ears, making this search for Rudolf extremely festive. Maybe it was the Christmas music, or the incredible “Rudolf went that way” signs along the course that pushed me to a pretty good finish – 34:09. Not a PR but not even close to the time I thought I would put up.

If you’re looking to stay motivated in the Denver area, I can’t recommend this race series enough. Without fail they start on time, every time. The announcers do a great job exciting the crowd, even leading us in a dynamic warm-up routine. The courses are always well marked, and well kept (especially considering that several times the temps have been below freezing and ice is everywhere). The water stops are always manned and always have a fresh supply. I’ve even walked a race with friends, been nearly the last person, could almost touch the sag wagon, and I still had water at the aid station! The finish always has great local vendors – food, snacks, massages, face painting, you name it!

It’s just nice to consistently have a great experience with this crew! I am looking forward the remaining races in the series, and maybe for once The Dam Run will actually have good weather.