By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist
Continued from Part 1: A Dark Road and Part 2: Hope on the Horizon
A little after 3 weeks after surgery and 7 weeks since I first came in, things were finally heading in the right direction. I was putting on weight, eating real food, and ready to go home. Upon release, I set a goal for myself that I would finish Iceman this year. Some of my teammates looked at me skeptical but said they’d cheer me on.
Five weeks post-op, I got on my bike for the first time. I rode for just over 20 minutes and I was exhausted. My power output was less than a third what it once was, yet my heart rate neared race efforts. It was great and demoralizing at the same time. The next day, I rode up to my local bike shop to say hello. I managed around a 15 mph pace (with a tailwind) at a hard effort and had to hang out for the next hour to prepare for the half hour return trip.
Each day, I was able to go a little harder, a little longer. Three weeks after getting on the bike, I rejoined my Monday Night Crew. That night we rode for nearly 30 miles, and I even found myself pulling at the front. Each time I logged into Zwift, I would have to slide my FTP bar slightly higher to ensure I was working out in the proper zones. After each ride, I look at my power curve and see a new personal best. On one Monday night group ride, my buddy titled his ride on Strava as “Last ride ever where I’ll be faster than Collin.”
I feel great now. I am now back up to my old weight, I can eat just about anything I want without fear of it causing me pain and symptoms. My fears of never being able to race again have passed. My power levels are now to the point where I have to adjust my overall Iceman goal. No longer is the goal just to finish, but to place in my age group. I’ll be doing it with gears for the first time in 9 years, but I think I have a slight excuse.
Once again, I want to thank all the wonderful people in my life who helped out while I was out of commission. My wife, for being there at my side through the darkest hours. My parents for daily visits and helping out my wife with child care each night. Friends pitched in to set up a meal service for my wife and toddler. People teamed up to mow my yard and weed my garden. Heck, one of my riding buddies did a full tuneup and detailing of my mountain bike. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming. I feel blessed to have the friends and family I do.
Living with an ostomy is not the scarlet letter I had envisioned. Off the bike, I feel completely normal. No longer am I eyeing where the bathroom is at every new place I visit. I can sit at work and actually work straight without having to get up every 20 minutes. I can dress in the same clothes I’ve always worn. On the bike, its not the death sentence I thought it was going to be. With support groups online such as the Facebook group “Ostomy Lifestyle Athletes,” I’ve learned ways to adapt to my new body. My fears of constant dehydration have not materialized. Most importantly, I’m back home with my wife and children enjoying life. Comparing the alternative, I am completely happy with my decision to go ahead with surgery.
I have gone back and forth whether or not I wanted to share my story, but if this can give just one person hope, then this amount of sharing is worth it. While I sat in that hospital bed, I scoured the internet looking for any high level athlete who managed to compete with an ostomy. I really didn’t find much which only added to my fears and anxiety. If you are reading this and in the same uncomfortable hospital bed as I was, let this give you hope. Life will get better, and you will once again do what you love.
If you have persistent GI issues, see a doctor right away. Early treatment can spare you from what I had to go through. If are interested in learning more about Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis visit these sites for information:
U-M Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation
“Ostomy Lifestyle Athletes” Facebook page
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