Today marks the one year anniversary of my diagnosis with ulcerative colitis. For me this is not a sad anniversary. Rather I think it is a day for appreciation and perspective. It is not an anniversary that I plan to celebrate with an elaborate dinner and I don’t think I’ll be receiving any gifts or cards today… But all things consider, I feel lucky to be experiencing this anniversary.
Ulcerative colitis as you know is not fun. It is not something that I wanted. It is something that I have. It has changed my life. But not for the worse. Really, it has changed my life for the better. You might think I’m crazy for writing that ulcerative colitis has made my life better. This disease and diagnosis has made me a stronger person. I’ve always been a driven individual and focused on getting ahead. But what this disease has taught me is that the human spirit can really handle anything. I’ve had some rough days but I’ve also had great days. Ulcerative colitis has taught me to appreciate the small things in life. This might sound cheesy but it’s true.
I really didn’t appreciate my health, my fitness, my freedom until I became sick. There are days when I don’t feel like going out for a training ride or for getting on with the day-to-day chores such as grocery shopping and laundry. But then my brain flips to the rough days when I lacked the energy or was simply in too much pain to get out of bed – let alone ride my bike or go to the grocery store. Thanks to ulcerative colitis, I am very thankful for the life I have. I don’t take anything for granted.
Today is a pretty good day. I got out for a cyclo-cross skills ride this morning. Came home, did some work, puttering in the kitchen (made a fine pizza with the infamous cauliflower crust) and now I’m about to head out the door for a local bike race. Pretty darn good considering I’m still in an ulcerative colitis flare. Yes, I’ve had to dash to the bathroom more times than I’d like to admit. No, I can’t eat my beloved raw carrots and celery. Yes, I’m taking a bunch of medicine including steroids.
But, I’m not in the hospital. I’m not in bed wishing I had the energy to walk down the stairs. Nope, I’m living my life soaking up all the small gifts and triumphs along the way. I’m still focused and driven but I’ve now got room to see the small things in life that really make life worth living – the bright blue sky, sitting outside in the dusk and just being, relaxing with a good book, the freedom of being able to ride my bike and breathe in the fresh air. This is the stuff of life. The lows are hard to remember when I think about this day and how great it has been so far.
Are there days when I ask “why me?”. Yes of course. I’m only human. But I count myself lucky. Lucky to be supported, to be able to still do the things I love, and to know that the highs really do overshadow the lows. Who knows how I’ll feel a year from now? All I know is that I’ll make this year the best one yet.