August 17 2017
Angela Cortez is the toughest 6-year-old runner around.
I grew up competing in cross country and track, and ran throughout high school and college. Although I took some time off running when I started my first job, I never imagined that one day I’d barely be able to move.
Just a few years after I graduated college, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and my heath deteriorated rapidly. My weight dropped from a normal 135 to a sickly 109, and I could barely walk without assistance. I stopped working in order to get myself well physically, but that decision took a toll on my emotional health.
Desperate to find something that would bring joy back into my life, I attended a meeting for The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) Team Challenge. The Challenge helps individuals train for half marathons, while raising money for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It was crazy for me to think that I could run 13.1 miles, but hearing stories from others who had battled their illness through running inspired me to try.
I began to run with the help and support of Team Challenge and its members. For the first time in over a year, I started to feel like myself again. Two weeks before my race, I ran 12 miles in Central Park. When I finished, I bawled my eyes out. I thought back to 18 months prior when I was living on liquid nutrition. My weight was now back to normal and I felt healthy in every way.
Days before the half, however, I experienced a flare up from my disease. I had to increase my steroid dosage, but I was determined to finish what I’d worked so hard training for. On race day, I made it to the 10-mile mark feeling good, but then the muscle spasms in my abdomen kicked in. The final 5k took a painful 45 minutes, but when I finally crossed the line, I was elated. I felt like the most powerful woman in the world.
Through this experience I realized I’m so much more than a patient with an illness—I’m a person with passion, goals and dreams.
My husband and I are now expecting our first baby. I can’t wait to pass on my story to my children one day and teach them how much strength we have inside ourselves.