The National Autoimmune Examiner published an article American Idol Casey Abrams’ campaign for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. You can read it here.
One of the 9 finalists of this campaign is KerriAnn MacNeil. She is from Canton, Massachusetts and has had Crohn’s disease for 10 years.
The previous article focused on KerriAnn’s Crohn’s disease and her story about applying to the Naval and Coast Guard Academies, which denied her admission in spite of her grades. When it came time for the physical portion of the admission process, having Crohn’s was perceived as too risky despite her being physically fit. She was medically disqualified by both institutions.
This is an interview with KerriAnn:
Please talk about the fitness aspect of your application to the Academies.
“In high school I was a cheerleader, an all-star cheerleader (I participated on an all competition team) and on the track team. I was a three letter varsity from sophomore through senior years. I got a gym membership as soon as I got my license. I cannot tell you one specific thing I did because I did it all. Running, gymnastics, cheering, step aerobics, whatever I could find to do I did.
Throughout school (and my life after my diagnosis) I was gluten-free, lactose free, starch free, sugar free, etc. I tried everything. For me, it was never ‘all gluten makes me sick, or all lactose causes pain.’ For me it was anything that was not natural (i.e. packed with preservatives and had a shelf-life longer than a few weeks) would be hard for me to digest. So I just stick with what I know. And yes, on occasion, the ice cream is worth it.”
Is there a particular exercise routine that you would recommend?
“I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one specific exercise because everyone is different. I love running, but I know plenty of people who find it boring. I do yoga. One thing I do know is exercise reduces stress, and stress is a major trigger for me and many other fellow patients with Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
I suggest spending an hour a day kick boxing; taking that class at the gym you were always scared to; or taking a walk after dinner with your significant other – you’ll be surprised how much a little movement can help you feel both physically and mentally better.”
Please tell our readers about Team Challenge:
“Like I stated before I was in track in high school. I always ran, but I would think three miles was far enough and go on to something else. It wasn’t until I got a flyer in the mail for Team Challenge, a fundraising and endurance training program for the CCFA (Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America) that I really considered running. I went to the informational meeting and signed up immediately. I wasn’t sure at the time that I could complete a half marathon, but I was so motivated by all the coaches and mentors and the CCFA personnel that deep down I knew this was something I could do.
I trained with the CCFA for 16 weeks and on June 26th, 2010 I completed my first half marathon wearing a TEAM CHALLENGE singlet. Not only did I get to do something I never thought I could accomplish, I now have a group of friends (and running buddies) many of who have Crohn’s or Colitis and understand that it is necessary to plan a run around public restrooms.
Team challenge has given me more than just a love for running. It has given me a support system that I never had during the previous 10 years of having this disease. I have gone on to complete two other half marathons and numerous 5k, 10k and 4-mile races. I also ran an obstacle race. On my schedule is my 4th half marathon, the BAA Half Marathon in Boston, and Team Challenge New England in December in Las Vegas. I can’t describe the feeling of crossing that finish line. I know I’ll never be an elite runner. I’ll probably never have a Boston Marathon qualifying time, but I do know something happens to me from the moment the gun goes off until I am sitting at home again in an ice bath, and I couldn’t give that up.”
Thank you KerriAnn and continued good luck and good health. Let’s not count out the Boston Marathon! The Naval and Coast Guard Academies missed out on a special woman.