As May dwindles away and June lies eagerly in wait, my mind can’t help but drift to the festivities in store. June means a few things to me - a month to my birthday, the traditional last month of school, and the Heel n’ Wheel a thon. Unbelievably so, but nonetheless still true, this Heel n’ Wheel (HnW) will be the 8th time I participate and volunteer.
The first HnW I attended back in 2004 made me so nervous that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It marked the first time I was going to socialize with other IBDers, and because I didn’t consider myself really one yet, I was hesitant to do so, dragging my heels the whole way there. I had made a good friend in junior high whose mother had IBD and was involved, so at the very least the saving grace seemed to be that I could run off with my friend and pretend like I didn’t have a disease that needed a cure. It was similar to the first time I was in an M&M shop after my diagnosis, I almost had a panic attack when I saw the donation box on the counter for the CCFC - all I could think was that I must be really sick if there were donation boxes in a store for the disease that I had.
Timid and mute, I shuffled along behind my parents when we arrived to help out before that first HnW, trying to figure out where I might fit in. Someone handed me the face paints and pointed to a table and suggested my friend and I do that. That seemed simple enough, and didn’t put me in a ‘HEY I HAVE IBD’ shirt, much to my relief. Since then, I have spent every HnW painting faces and adhering temporary Gutsy tattoos on hands and cheeks, the ‘war paint’ so to speak of the HnW. Last year I got so excited to use the face paints that I wrote ‘I have Crohn’s - ask me!’ down the side of my leg. I’ll have to think up something equally as clever and time-consuming for this year’s HnW.
This year like many years, I’m honored enough to be asked to speak before the ribbon gets cut and we’re off to the races. As much as I look forward to speaking, how does one go about compressing their medical history, personal journey, experience with the CCFC, and some humor into a five minute speech? I do my best to pluck a single memory from my IBD past and convey it as honestly as possible, throw in a joke or two, and call it a speech. This year, I just might have to draw on all of these blogs and our book - what can I say, I’m shameless about promoting The Gutsy Generation.
Be it with face paints or tattoos, or just a big smile, I’ll be at the HnW ready to run for the cure - face forward to the future.