I had always been a sick child. I can remember constantly calling my parents from the nurse’s office. While sitting in the nurse’s office I found myself wondering what was wrong with me, and why everyone in the school office knew me by my first name. I was that kid.

DrakerunningAs the years passed, my illness became an everyday thing. Luckily, for a while, it didn’t prevent me from living a somewhat normal life. During that time, I progressed through middle school and into high school where I fell in love with running, science, and traveling. But as I began my sophomore year, it became clear there was something seriously wrong with my health. I had stopped progressing, in almost every aspect of my life. I was running slower, I wasn’t growing, and I wasn’t gaining weight. My grades dropped because the only areas I was excelling in were hours of sleep and trips to the restroom.

I had been misdiagnosed numerous times, visited the ER multiple times, and was experiencing worsening symptoms, when I was finally offered a colonoscopy.  I was finally diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s disease. My doctor told me that I wouldn’t run for any extended period of time, that I would probably never progress, and that I would have limitations for the rest of my life. I decided that was not an option.

Due to the lack of pediatric gastroenterologists in my home state of West Virginia, I made the decision to transfer to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. As I entered the IBD clinic for the first time, I remember my mother worrying aloud about my health while I kept asking myself the same question over and over again: will I ever run again?

Before I knew it, I was in an examination room where I met two of the most influential people in life. Dr. Shehzad Saeed and Lee Beck, a dynamic duo who had me on the right treatment plan in no time. Together we discussed and set goals for what I wanted to accomplish as we created my treatment plan. The most important goals on the list were to have me running again, and living a normal, healthy, and happy life. After a year that included hospital stays, steroids, infusions, tests, and lots of hard work, I achieved my goals.  Sure there were bumps in the road, but as all runners know…slow and steady wins the race.

Now that I am healthy, I have set another goal for myself. I want to show patients with IBD that a normal life that includes athletics is possible. I consider myself very fortunate to be able run at the collegiate level and believe that running is an important part of my treatment plan. Just because I have a disease doesn’t mean I should live with limitations. I am running with Crohn’s disease in my life, rather than letting the disease run my life!

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