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Friday, February 19, 2016

Love, Running, & Ulcerative Colitis

Here is a Love Story told by Team Challenge alumnus Katie Dolgert of how she overcame Ulcerative Colitis I met Mike through mutual friends at work where we bonded over a shared love of international adventure travel and beer. When he told me he had planned a trip to Iceland in the winter of 2009, I was very jealous. So much so that when he offhandedly asked me to tag along, I jumped at the opportunity. At that point in time, he saw me as a single, healthy 30-year-old woman that would be a fun travel companion. On our first night at the hotel, Mike expressed interest when I pulled out my giant container of prescription medication and proceeded to swallow six pills. I glossed over it with a vague statement about "stomach issues." Thankfully, he didn't bring it up again. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2001 at 22 years old. At the time, I had never even heard of the disease but it didn't seem that serious. I took some medication and within a few months, my symptoms had cleared up and I enjoyed a medication free 7 year period of remission. By the time I was in Iceland with this cute guy, I was terrified. My colitis had returned in the previous year and the medication that initially put me into remission was no longer working. I was in a foreign country eating weird food and sharing a bathroom in a tiny hotel room. I'm sure he noticed when I disappeared to the bathroom but was too much of a gentleman to say anything and embarrass me. When we returned to the United States and officially started dating, I came clean about my illness. He was nothing but supportive, asking lots of questions and wanting to learn more. Over our years together, he has seen me at my lowest. He's covered for me in public when I'm not able to eat or drink. He's hugged me while I've cried in pain in the bathroom. He's held my hand through multiple colonoscopy preps and procedures. He's been my rock. Shortly after we were married in 2011, I heard about Team Challenge and brought it up to Mike. He was totally on board- we had run a few half marathons in the past and this seemed like a good fit. But as I sat in that information meeting, I got scared. Scared to put myself out there. To talk about my disease in public to friends, family members and co workers. I would have to abandon the story I'd stuck to for a decade about my stomach issues. I would have to publicly declare that I was sick with an incurable disease. Mike insisted we sign up on the spot so we couldn't back out. We got home that night and started writing our letters and setting up our webpage. When I sent out that first email with my story, I was terrified. But then the donations started rolling in. The support we received was overwhelming. We raised $3,000 in the first week. Within 6 weeks, we had reached our goal of $7,500. By the time we were lining up at the start line of the Las Vegas Half Marathon, we had raised over $11,000 for CCFA. It was a humbling and emotional moment. Team Challenge introduced me into a whole new world filled with people just like me. We could talk openly about our disease without fear, knowing that everyone got it. When there were trainings that I fell behind because I wasn't feeling well, someone always stayed with me. It was a support group I never knew existed. It was a family. Since Las Vegas, Mike and I have completed two additional events with the Team Challenge. The program was so inspiring that even my parents joined the team and walked their first half marathon with me in 2014. I no longer let my illness define me. I am a lucky woman with the love of a wonderful man. I am blessed to be the mother of two amazing children who inspire me every day. I have the support of the incredible family I was born into and the Team Challenge family that adopted me. I may have to face challenges on occasion and make peace with the fact that I am "sick." But this illness has brought more positives into my life then negatives and that love, support and camaraderie is something I'm truly thankful for.

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