A Warrior's Journey

(by Karen Jonseof

Karen Jonseof

Hi, my name is Karen, and I started my journey with Team Challenge and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation several years ago. How do you explain life with Crohn’s Disease? All IBD warriors can relate on some level, but we each have our own story. 

I was around 21 years old when IBD entered my life in the form of an anal fissure/fistula. At the time, I was clueless. I was living alone in Seattle, and my closest relative was my brother, who was about an hour away. I remember him dropping me off at the hospital and the long wait while I sat there, alone, waiting for my surgery. The anal fissure/fistula meant that sitting hurt…a lot. After waiting for more than an hour, I finally asked if I could lay down because the pain was so bad. I’m guessing a lot of other IBD patients can relate to being in pain, but being hesitant to ask for help.

My next experience, which finally resulted in a diagnosis, came in my early thirties. I had kids at that point, and they were used to being active and experiencing life to its fullest.  The zoo, trains, driving to the mountains, and visiting parks – we did it all, and my kids still remember those good times.  Unfortunately, that’s when my stomach pain started. This led to doctor’s visits, tests, and different drugs. Nothing worked. I finally had a nurse tell me to go to the emergency room next time the pain hit. Late one night, my husband dropped me off at the ER and drove the kids home. Hours later, I had my diagnosis - Crohn’s Disease. 

Life changed after that. I started on 60mg of prednisone for about 5 months. I tried to wean myself off of it, but the pain came back each time. When I couldn’t live with the side effects anymore, my doctor started me on another medication that really didn’t do much. I tried my best to juggle two children, a husband, a full time job, and a home to take care of, but it was hard. The adventures my kids had grown accustomed to weren’t happening anymore, and I felt myself drifting away from my family. Things weren’t fun anymore.

Finally, after about 3 years of struggles, things got bad enough that my husband forced me to go to the ER again. Doctors removed a portion of my bowels and appendix, and I was able to leave the hospital. For a while, I did much better. But life with Crohn’s disease means the struggles are never over. Since then, I’ve been through a few additional surgeries, tests, various medications, and Lord knows what else.

One day I received a letter from my new gastroenterologist encouraging me to run or walk a half marathon with Team Challenge, to benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. I laughed at first. Me…run? Yeah, right! But then I spoke to Heidi, who managed the local team. Somehow, she talked me into doing my first half marathon. This was a life changing moment because I was finally able to talk to people who understood what I was experiencing.  I no longer had to hide behind a smile...at least not with this group of wonderful people! These fellow IBD patients and people whose lives had been touched by Crohn's or colitis “got” it. I found my support group that I didn’t know I needed.

Today, at the age of 51, I’m proud to say that I have now completed several half marathons with Team Challenge. The people of this group are a family. We support each other even when we are not currently training for an event. While fundraising, I have found so many people that do not have a support group like I do. My mission is to listen and give support to those people who need someone to empathize with them and NOT judge them. I realize that this is a long-life war, with many battles until we find a cure, which is why I proudly call myself a “Chronie Warrior.”

I plan to continue fighting back, which is why I've registered for the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah event with Team Challenge. I can't wait to reunite with my #TCfamily in a new city, and I'd love to have some new warriors join me! 



Join Karen and continue the fight against Crohn's & Colitis at the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah event. YOU can make a difference! Fill out the form below to have one of our team contact you, walk you through the options, and help you take the first step. Come meet our team & try us out with nothing to lose! 



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