Attacking the Invisible Giant
The fall of 1990, a monumental year for all the wrong reasons. I was entering into my junior year in High School. Eleventh grade is the most important year in a young student’s life. It is the year that we begin to think about college and SAT’s. It remains of the most challenging times in my life for self-imposed and unanticipated challenges. My athletic goals and trajectory led me to the decision to leave my hometown to pursue my dream of finding success as a ski racer in northern Vermont. The previous three academic years were spent dividing my time between my hometown High School and a winter ski academy in Killington. The stress of the transition between the two settings weighed, and my parents and I pursued other full-time options. I was accepted into Burke Mountain Academy and knew that my life would never be the same. I was hopeful and confident that my parents and I made the correct decision. I never anticipated the rocky road that lay ahead for an independent and strong-willed teenager.
Most juniors show up to their first day of school with notebooks and pens, my first day started with sneakers and shorts, and a 1.75-mile run. The run is then followed by a series of physical tests designed to gauge your fitness level for the upcoming dry land training season. Written and verbal warnings are communicated to students that failure to pass a predetermined number of physical tests results in designation of a special training group, so fondly called Pain Torture and Agony (“PTA”). I had no realistic chance to escape membership this exclusive club because I was fighting an invisible enemy. Crohn’s disease was attacking my body and depleting my strength and energy. That fall turned out to be a fruitless effort to obtain my athletic goals because no matter how hard I worked out; I was never able to conquer the battle in my gut. Ironically, my health challenges taught me to never give up and never shy away from a physical challenge.
For the past 30 years, there has not been a day that I am not reminded that I have Crohn’s disease. My worst days are not always evident, and my struggles are often silent. I hope that by sharing my story both the triumphs and defeats, I can help shed light on the realities of an invisible disease for which there is no cure.
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