Why I Take Steps
This past Saturday my family and friends proudly walked around Clove Lake Park in Staten Island behind a “MVP Team – Relief for Rosanne” banner. We had just received the Second Place Fundraising Team Award for the third year in a row at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) Take Steps Walk.
During our walk on that beautiful day, I couldn’t help but to reflect on far I had come. I didn’t attend my first Take Steps walk. A couple of years after my diagnosis my mom went and walked with a coworker’s team in New Jersey. She reported back to me that it was a wonderful event and that I should attend the following year.
I thanked her and told her I’d consider it, when in actuality attending the following year was the last thing I wanted to do.
I was uncomfortable with my diagnosis. I didn’t tell my classmates what I was going through. Instead of going out with my friends and possibly having an episode or accident, I told them I didn’t feel like going out. Talking about ulcerative colitis, or my symptoms, wasn’t an option.
That was, until I participated in Take Steps New York City in 2010. When I showed up at the South Street Seaport for my first Take Steps walk, I was immediately speechless. I could not believe that there were that many people impacted by Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Everyone was cheerful yet purposeful. I heard children at least a decade younger than I was speaking freely about their conditions and about their battles.
I had a chance to speak to some of the best IBD specialists in the tri-state area in the doctor tent. I heard about the wonderful work the CCFA was doing to fight for restroom access in the mission tent. I laughed out loud for the first time in a long time when I saw children tossing toilet paper into toilet seats. I was touched when my teammates, who knew what I was going through, reached a new level of understanding thanks to the many patient advocates in attendance.
As much as the New York City walk meant to me, when the CCFA Greater New York created the first annual Take Steps Staten Island walk three years ago, Take Steps became even more of a personal mission. Our first walk was a modest one. From the naked eye, I would say we had 75-100 participants and the whole walk didn’t net as much money as some of the teams from the New York City walk. However, I was home. I was walking with my neighbors with an underserved IBD community.
It was amazing to me this year to look out and see all the new faces. While this is depressing to some – to see more people affected by these terrible diseases – I knew they were there all along hanging in the shadows as I once was.
I also hit a personal goal this year: for the first time, I shared information about my disease and the walk with coworkers. Many showed their generosity and donated to my team. However, the most important moment for me was when I began to get emails back:
- I had no idea you were going through this. Can you take medication?
- I didn’t know about ulcerative colitis. I looked it up after your email.
- How did you manage your pregnancy with this disease?
Advocacy. Friendship. Awareness. Information. Finding a cure.
This is what Take Steps means to me. I’m so thankful for the CCFA for Take Steps and for all the terrific work it does.
Team Relief for Rosanne raised $4,400 this year. Read more about the team on the Take Steps website.