Sunday, February 21, 2010

Upcoming series - Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease: Getting diagnosed

I've decided that I would like to share with you my own story of getting diagnosed, from the, well, "interesting" symptoms and doctor's visits to coming to terms with the news that I have a chronic condition that would subsequently change my everyday life. Getting diagnosed with Crohn's disease was a pretty defining moment in my life, and I think sharing my story with you has many benefits. So next Monday through Friday (March 1 - 5) I will be making daily posts in a series I'm calling Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease: Getting diagnosed. The whole series of posts will cover topics including the symptoms, getting tests done, taking medication, entering remission, and experiencing relapse. All in all, I think my story will provide a fairly in-depth look at what it's like to really live with Crohn's disease and how it affects my daily life. I hope that you read them, learn from them, and enjoy them. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you.

And so it begins – The start of training

The weather's been starting to get a little warmer up here in good ol' Beantown, and everyone's starting to come out from hibernation as all the remaining snow starts to melt. I was originally going to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning, but I let myself sleep in and enjoy the comfort of my pillow a little longer. But after a day of some much needed rest and relaxation, I had to get up and do something with my life. So I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement.

I went on a little 3-mile run down to Cleveland Circle, up to Comm Ave (without getting hit by the T barreling down the middle of the road), and around the reservoir. Just enough to get the blood and muscles moving. I have 18 weeks until the big race on June 27, so I'll have plenty of time to be getting in loads of mileage over the coming weeks. Most half-marathon training plans are usually 8-10 weeks long, so I have plenty of time to get ready. I've been working on a training plan, but I have to be a little flexible right now between work and studying for the MCATs (which are in *gasp* less than 5 weeks!).

And I think it's time to get a new pair of running shoes. Hooray for new shoes! I've probably logged several hundred miles in the ones I have now and I'll be doing upwards of around 50-60 miles/week, so I'm probably going to go ahead and grab a new pair. This week, however, will be a nice and easy week with only around 25-30 miles or so.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


So while I'm getting ready to head into some serious training for my first-ever half-marathon, the big reason why I'm doing this is because of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). The CCFA played a big role in my life when I was first diagnosed with Crohn's disease in November 2008. Not only were all the resources that I ever needed about the disease or my medication readily available to me, but there was also a forum where I could post any and all questions that I had. Thanks to the CCFA, I've never felt alone in my battle with Crohn's.

The CCFA has played a major role in funding the best Crohn's and colitis related research going on today. To date, the Foundation has raised more than $136 million to directly fund successful, ongoing research. That's a lot of dough that's been put to good use. The Foundation invests all of the dollars they raise wisely, funding the absolute best research anywhere in the world and implementing a peer-review process that insures only the most promising and relevant grant applications are funded. They've shown great success in the past and have even helped to accelerate the discovery of NOD2, a gene involved directly in Crohn's disease, as well as the development of new drug therapies. You can learn more about the CCFA's ongoing role in Crohn's and colitis research by clicking here.

All in all, the CCFA is truly one of the greatest organizations that I've ever come across. I'm on their website regularly, to learn about ongoing research as well as answering some questions of newly diagnosed patients in their forums. Even after over a year of living with Crohn's, I'm still asking the occasional question or two because I'm still learning about how to live with the disease. And I can honestly say that I just couldn't do it without the Foundation being there to teach me and guide me along the way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

So what exactly is Crohn's disease?

In short, Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder which causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although it can affect any area of the GI tract, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or colon.

Barium X-ray showing narrowing in the small bowel from Crohn's disease.

Because the symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are so similar, it is sometimes difficult to establish the diagnosis definitively. In fact, about 10% of colitis cases are called "indeterminate colitis" because they are unable to be pinpointed as either Crohn's disease or UC. Some sufferers can even go months or years before they get the correct diagnosis!

However, Crohn's and UC do have one strong feature in common. Both illnesses are marked by an abnormal response by the body's immune system. Normally, the immune system protects the body from infection. In people with Crohn's disease, however, the immune system reacts inappropriately. Researchers believe that the immune system mistakes bacteria that is normally found lining the walls of the intestine for foreign or invading substances, and launches an attack. In the process, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation. These cells then generate harmful products that ultimately lead to ulcerations and bowel injury. When this happens, the patient experiences the symptoms commonly associated with Crohn's disease, including such fun things as diarrhea, bleeding, abdominal pain, and subsequent malnutrition and weight loss among others.

Healthy small bowel on the left, inflamed small bowel on the right in a patient with Crohn's. Yup, the one on the right hurts.

Although Crohn's disease most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (the ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine (the colon), it may involve any part of the GI tract. In Crohn's disease, all layers of the intestinal tissue may be involved, and there can be normal healthy bowel in between patches of diseased bowel. If inflamed bowel does not react appropriately to drug therapies, the patient may have to have a portion of the affected intestine removed surgically. Furthermore, Crohn's disease patients are also at a significantly higher risk for colon cancer, and must have a colonoscopy every two years or so to check for cancerous polyps that may develop in the colon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

13.1 Boston - So much more than a half-marathon

Sure, 13.1 Boston is a half-marathon. Yup, I could have just signed up, paid the registration fee, and run the race. But this race is so much more than just a race. It's a race to find a cure for Crohn's and colitis.

After living with Crohn's disease for almost a year and a half, I know first-hand some of the implications that the disease has on one's lifestyle. I've learned that I seriously need to manage my stress levels, because if I don't I'll most likely force another relapse. I need to watch what I eat and really take the motto "everything in moderation" to heart, because if I binge on any one thing I know that I'll be feeling it the next day. I know what it's like to spend days in bed in crippling pain and that there's really nothing I can do about it but wait for the drugs to kick in. I also know that some kids have never known a day without the disease and that they have gone through several major surgeries because the treatments available to them aren't sufficient to help them battle off Crohn's and UC.

Also, working in the research industry, I know first-hand the importance and high-cost of state-of-the-art research. And don't think people in the sciences are making boatloads of money. Trust me, we're not. We're all in research because we are truly passionate about what we're doing. I mean, there's really not too many people who will tell you that they love their job, but we're those people.

I also know that any donation, no matter how big or small, is a significant donation. Because as a collective whole the money we raise will go to fund the best projects overlooked by the best scientists in the field. So $50, $25, $10, or the spare change in your pocket will get us one step closer to finding a cure for Crohn's and colitis. That's why this race is so much bigger than some time that I'm looking to beat. It's all about conquering a chronic disease.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Starting out!

Hey everybody!

First, thanks for checking out my blog! I'm really excited to be running 13.1 Boston for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America! The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) is a truly great organization and does amazing work in funding successful research for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC).

But the whole reason I came across this race was kind of by chance. I've been looking to get back into long-distance running now that my rowing days have come to an end. So just recently I signed up for and ran the Super Sunday 10k just this past Super Bowl Sunday.

I have to say I did a lot better than I thought I was going to do. I was shooting for a time around 45:00, which was pretty aggressive considering I just had a flare-up of my Crohn's disease just a couple of weeks prior to the race date. But I finished 57th out of the 791 runners with a time of 40:56, which rounds out to 6:36 mile splits. Needless to say I was happy about my time! And the rush that I got from passing, pacing, and finishing with other runners reminded me how much fun and exciting it is to race, as well as how much I've missed it. So I went home and instantly started looking up other races that I could run. Since a 10k wasn't all that bad, I looked up some upcoming half-marathons in the Boston area. Through my searching I found out that the CCFA was the official charity of the Inaugural 13.1 Boston! Pretty amazing if you think about it.

So after work this past Thursday I went to the informational meeting to see what the CCFA and 13.1 Boston are all about. Well, it's the Inaugural 13.1 Boston this year, which is awesome. There's a whole series of 13.1 races held in major cities throughout the country, but this is the first year that the race is coming to Boston. What's even more awesome is that the CCFA is the official charity of 13.1 Boston, which means that there's going to be a ton of people running the half-marathon on behalf of Team Challenge.

As a little side note, one of my cheesy New Year's resolutions this year has been to simply do more things that I want to do instead of putting them off to some later, indefinite time in the future. And while I was at the meeting I thought to myself, "You know what? I want to do this. I have to do this." So I committed myself to raising $2500 for the CCFA and raising awareness about Crohn's and colitis by running the 13.1 Boston half-marathon. While I can handle running the half-marathon, I will need your support in helping me raise $2500 for the CCFA. You can make a contribution by going to my personal fundraising page here or clicking the link on the right side of this page! You can also keep track of how we're doing with fundraising by checking my fundraising thermometer also located over to the right.

So here I am, getting ready to enter into training for my first-ever half-marathon! I'm pumped even though I've never done this before! But I'm going to put together a training plan and stick to it, so by the time race day rolls around on June 27th I'll be prepared to race hard and achieve my goal time.

I'll be making regular postings about my training, fundraising, life with Crohn's disease, awesome things about the CCFA, and more right here on my blog. So check back regularly for updates!

Also, I've enabled ads on here, so whatever money that I end up making off of this blog will be donated to the CCFA!

Thanks for checking out my blog and joining me in my journey to the Inaugural 13.1 Boston on June 27th! Be sure to check back soon for more updates!