My Return To Optimism

I remember going for a run in New Jersey on July 4th of this year. I was on a mini-vacation with friends and my stomach felt off. Still, I tried to run with my speedy lady friends as best I could, because when there’s a path along the beach, you should run on it no matter what. But after two fast-for-me miles, I had to pull away from the group so I could spend some time in the beach-side bathroom.

Since that day, exactly two months ago, I felt sick.

I felt sick every single day.

I woke up every morning with a cramped, rumbling stomach.

I ate every meal with apprehension, never knowing how it would digest.

I used up every sick day I had left at work, and tacked on a lot of work-from-home-slash-the-bathroom days, too.

When I tried to run, whether it was four miles or 14, I made countless stops at the tennis court bathrooms, the Boathouse bathrooms and, when it got really really bad, the make-your-own bathrooms known as “the woods.”

I grew more frustrated every day. I spent my entire summer feeling sick, never wanting to make plans with people because I knew I’d end up bailing on account of “the Crohn’s thing.” I didn’t take vacations, and I rarely left my apartment, let alone the city. I was constantly fatigued, irritable and in pain. And marathon training?

Yes, I joined DailyMile for four seconds. No, I don't want to be your DailyMile friend. I just want someone else to add up my miles for me. I don't need "motivation" every time I exercise. Thank you for offering, though.

Well, marathon training wasn’t exactly happening as I’d hoped.

All the frustration with being sick culminated in a three-day stay at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Checked in with my GPS.

The three days I spent in the hospital were awful. I hated it there. I hated the tests. I hated getting stuck with needles every hour. I hated the nurses who never seemed to have a clue what was going on and kept bringing me the wrong medications. I hated the “food” they allowed me to have.

This is supposed to make me better?

But the whole time I was there, I tried to tell myself being admitted was for the best. The doctors were going to take a close look inside my intestines and my colon, and they were going to figure things out. Yeah, the barium was disgusting. Yeah, I puked it up. And yeah, the colonoscopy juice was gross, and yeah I vomited a lot of that as well.

I spent every single minute in that hospital wishing I could escape.

After 20 years with this disease and two straight months of feeling painfully ill, I’d started having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I had convinced myself that this was my new life: sleepless nights, constant stomach cramping, joint pain, no appetite, no more running, no social life, no fun and way too much urgent time in the bathroom.

The doctors weren’t having it, though. They took their fancy cameras, and they checked out my little bowels and my big bowels (does anyone else find the word “bowel” to be ugly?).

Their verdict?

“It’s all great news.”


My doctor and his right-hand-man (really just another doctor who happened to be the one to perform my colonoscopy) both spent a lot of time talking with me on Friday to explain what they saw. They both seemed optimistic and they had a plan. They saw the disease, they prescribed new medications and we’re going to take it all slowly. I have to “be patient” because there’s “no overnight cure.” But I’m OK with that.

Dr. Half Marathoner even said “this plan will give you a great shot at running the marathon.”

I was skeptical, of course, because I’ve been on plenty of medications in the past and they haven’t worked. Clearly. But these doctors are new to me, and they’re cuter than doctors I’ve had in the past which must mean they know what’s up.

I stayed in the hospital all day Friday getting my Remicade infusion while I Skyped with Tyler & Co.

Time flies when you're chatting with your entire family. Kind of. Time actually still goes really slowly, because you're in a hospital.

Finally, at 10 PM on Friday, Nurse Edward came to my room armed with my discharge paperwork and a handful of prescriptions.

I was free to leave.


Truthfully, I was so happy to get out of the hospital but I was also a little discouraged to be leaving feeling just as shitty as I was when I got there. Yeah, I’d endured all the tests and I had a plan going forward. But I guess I kind of expected to walk out of Mount Sinai feeling at least a little bit better.

On Saturday, I avoided social media and stayed in bed until 1 PM.

I didn’t feel better.

I took all my pills, I refused to look at my Garmin or my Brooks, and I was nervous about starting to eat solid foods again. I just felt sort of weird.

Then, I woke up Sunday and felt OK.

Not great.

But not terrible.

And after two months of terrible, I’ll take OK.

As the day went on, I continued to feel OK. I showered. I washed my hair. I even made it to that wedding in New Jersey.


I didn’t drink and I was careful about what I ate all night. I didn’t want to miss the good stuff on account of being in the bathroom. And I made it through just fine. I even danced, and everyone thought I was wasted, but really I’m just an awful dancer.

Sorry that I have no moves.

It ended up being a great night, and for just a few hours I forgot about the hospital and forgot about the fact that just a few days prior I’d been downing colonoscopy potion and was chained to the bathroom.

College roommates!

We didn’t get back to the city until late Sunday night.

On Monday, I slept in again. I didn’t set an alarm all weekend, which was definitely necessary.

I woke up and felt more OK than the day before.

Eventually, I felt OK enough to look at my Brooks. I felt OK enough to put them on and I felt OK enough to take them out for a gentle, doctor-approved spin around Central Park.

I ran slowly and I certainly didn’t run the 18–20 miles the rest of my New York City Marathon-training friends were out running this weekend.

But I ran.

And I felt OK.

I didn’t make a million bathroom stops.

In fact, I only made one.

I didn’t run far and I didn’t run fast. But for a few miles, I felt like myself again.

It has been a long, long road and for months I have let this disease totally kick my ass. I’ve felt sad, I’ve felt frustrated and I’ve felt a kind of agony that I never thought I’d feel from a lame digestive disease. I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve wanted to just quit trying to figure things out and I’ve wanted to stay in bed all day. (OK, I still kind of want to stay in bed all day, because that sounds awesome.)

But not anymore.

I’m not “fixed.” I’m certainly not “cured.” I’m not even fully better yet.

I finally know that I will be, though. I’ll be OK. It may take some time. It may take some trial and error. It may take more Remicade and someday down the road it may take another hospital stay and more tests.

You'd find ways to entertain yourself, too. With medicine cups...

For two months, I was convinced I would never get better.

My optimism is back, now. And I think healthy days are right around the corner.

In case my words are not enough proof that I am, in fact, returning to my regular mental state of “happy,” here are two cute things:

Cute Thing #1: This puppy. Thank you, Anna, for seeing this and thinking "Ali needs to know this puppy exists." I love you for it.
Cute Thing #2: Tyler got so tired of hearing me talk about being diseased that he passed out on the living room floor. Sometimes I think we have everything in common. Also, baby sweatpants are the coolest.

I’m off to have a great day. I hope you’re planning to do the same.

And truly, from the bottom of my sick-but-getting-better heart, thank you for the incredible kindness over these past few days. The Tweets, the emails, the puppy photos — you all made me feel very loved and slightly less sick, and I appreciate it so much. I’m a lucky, lucky girl. Hugs for everyone.



52 Responses

  1. YEAH YEAH YEAH!!! I’ve been following your blog for a few weeks and every single time I tried to make an excuse NOT to get out to train for my fall marathon I thought…Ali gets out there and does it, even when it’s difficult and requires much more planning than my jaunts.
    And I am so happy you are feeling better. Cheering for you and many many good days to come.

  2. You and your man clean up beautifully!

    And looking at you at the wedding, I would have never have guessed that you were in the hospital for the past x amount of days!!

    You’re lovely, girl! Keep on chuggin’!

  3. We don’t know each other, and I rarely comment, but I do hope you have at least a tiny idea of how your attitude-spirit-personality makes you totally shine. So very glad that your doctors are optimistic, because that seems a part of your nature, and it’s awesome that they’ve been able to authorize its return in your heart and mind.

  4. This is so good to hear! Always remember, you have a lot of people rooting for you and wishing you all the best of luck 🙂 hang in there…

    PS that dress you wore to the wedding is gorgeous!!

  5. Glad to read that things are looking better!
    Speaking about good looking, Brian is one handsome man in a suit! Lucky you!

  6. Glad you are feeling better! A positive outlook is so important, but at the same time, sometimes things suck, life isn’t fair, etc. and it’s normal and healthy to be frustrated every now and then.
    I totally agree about Daily Mile. I joined strictly to keep track of my miles and my time improvments (or occasional lack thereof) and I love it for that reason and that reason alone. I’m perfectly fine with not having any friends on it even though my husband laughs at me. I swear I’m not a misanthrope!

  7. Glad to hear you’re doing better and have a plan! Fingers crossed for you it works.

    And being in the hospital is the worst. I swear it makes you sicker bc your just so freaked out all the time.

  8. So happy you are feeling better… even if it’s just a little bit better.
    It’s totally normal to feel pessimistic. Don’t blame you for that. You are now back to your optimism and I am really impressed by that. You are really strong.

  9. Ali!

    I’ve been there. The hospital IS prison. I’ve been there for a night, 3 nights, 7 nights– all of it sucked. This spring, early on, I got a call from my GP after a lousy blood test and upon his recomendation that I come in for a transfusion to bump up my iron levels (yeah, they were that bad) i seriously considered just leaving town. but i felt better after– not perfect, like you said, but OK…which is okay. I’m psyched that you got a new plan, and that ou got a few miles in today, and that you managed to look smashing at the wedding and have a good time. hang in there! All the best!

  10. Ali, so great to hear that you are feeling better! I’ve always been amazed at how strong you’ve been, despite the crohn’s , still able to lace up and run! I know you will get thru this. Keep it up girl!

  11. So glad you are feeling “ok”, can’t wait to hear about when you are feeling good, then great. I’ve had the same problems, feeling like my crohn’s is in control of my life, and sometimes it still happens. I’ve decided it’s not going to be my life.

  12. So happy that you are feeling better Ali! I love that last picture of Tyler. That’s what my boyfriend looks like when I talk about my mile repeats workout!

  13. Just read both posts. So sorry you had an awful start to the Labor Day weekend. But I’m glad it put you on the road to recovery. I also find it awesome that you could look so good and have fun after days in the hospital!

  14. I am hearing a little light at the end of the tunnel. And I am happy because you liked the puppy picture. I am angry because I had a car accident this morning but then again I am happy because no one was injured.
    This sounds like a good re-start and I am crossing my fingers for you, hoping it will be a real start for a not-so-crohns-y life!

  15. Ali – You are amazing!
    I’m also a proud owner of Crohns and you inspire the crap out of me! (pun unfortunately intended). I absolutely love your attitude and that you can smile even when you don’t feel like it.

  16. Ugh, the no insta-cure part must suck BUT the light at the end of the tunnel must make up for it, along with puppies, Brian, and running. I am so glad that you are feeling better. Hang in there, and perhaps I should send a picture of bunnies on my next run, assuming you like bunnies 😉 I DID run in my I heart sweat t-shirt that my lovely sis Jess bought me, this morning and TOTALLY thought of you as I ran all bad-a$$ in the rain 😉 XO

  17. Great news that you’re alive, free and there’s a plan, I do love a plan. And you looked LOVELY at that wedding!! Did the Dr mean you might get to run NYC or another marathon?? Having a doctor who runs is the best, you know you can trust him!! Hurrah for an optimistic Tuesday!

  18. I am so in love with your dress. Hands down prettiest gown I’ve seen in a LONG TIME!! You looked beautiful at the wedding…hope you’re well on the road to many many recovery miles!! xo

  19. REALLY glad to read literally every word above.

    Onto the vital question: wherever is your gorgeous dress from?! 🙂

  20. so glad you’re out of the hospital and on the road to recovery! It is my firm belief that big medical procedures and hospital visits warrant gifts, so go get yourself a little present (froyo? new sharpees? puppy? )

    ps- excel spreadsheets count things just fine 😉

  21. I’m so glad to hear you’re out of hospital. Hope you are on the road to recovery and happy to hear your doctors support the whole running thing.

    Also, that picture of Tyler passed out of the floor reminds me of the photo you posted of you sleeping on the floor last summer. Clearly he is going to following in your brooks footsteps!

  22. Let’s just acknowledge that Tyler is passed out in the exact same position that you were that time you posted a picture of yourself asleep on your parents’ floor! He takes after his Aunt Ali 🙂

    Also, weird that I remember that? Probably.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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