Chayla is a beautiful 16 year old girl. Although she is missing her hair and might look like she is going through cancer chemotherapy, she is not. She is one of the 1.6 million people in the United States living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
“Even though l lost my hair, have missed over 3 months of my junior year of high school, and have been stuck in the hospital for nearly two months, I am trying to keep a smile on my face. I haven’t felt well in 10 months. I almost forget what it feels like to feel normal. But I know this isn’t forever. I am a fighter and I will not lose this battle,” said Chayla in a press release.
Chayla received a diagnosis for ulcerative colitis when she was only 8 months old. Her everyday life is full of debilitating symptoms associated with her condition. Even with that heavy burden, she ran 3 half-marathons and raised $14,000 thanks to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) Team Challenge endurance training program.
Chayla added: “I’ve spent the majority of my life hiding in the shadow of my disease, not understanding what was going on with me and not seeking support for dealing with it. It wasn’t until two years ago that I fully realized there was something ‘wrong’ with me. That same year I discovered Team Challenge and proved to myself that, even with debilitating stomach pain, inflammation, and discomfort, I could run 13.1 miles. Team Challenge helped me come to terms with being sick and inspired me to keep fighting, not only for myself but for all those living with these chronic diseases.”
Through the Team Challenge program, participants are trained over 16 weeks by local coaches to run a half marathon, triathlon, or cycle event while raising crucial funds that will help support those living with chronic autoimmune diseases. In return, participants receive an expenses-paid weekend to a great destination race.
“Chayla’s story is the reason that Team Challenge exists. Team Challenge provides participants with an opportunity to bring awareness to these rarely discussed diseases and raise critical funds for research, education, and support for all those affected by inflammatory bowel diseases. At the same time, Team Challenge empowers people to train for something that, for many, they never imagined they’d be able to do — complete an endurance event. It is inspiring to see a group of people come together, some who have these diseases and some who do not, united in the mission of finding a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” concluded Craig Comins, Team Challenge’s representative.