Shortly after my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. This blow was hard to handle as I had been very sick for some time and being diagnosed with both at such a young age was a hard pill to swallow. For the next eight years of my life I became very ill and spent a lot of time at the hospital. Lupus and RA were controlling my life. I had numerous surgeries, blood clots, and a detached retina. All of this in a short amount of time. I used to joke if you looked at my medical history and file, without looking at my age, you would think I was someone much older. I went through trying, I can’t even count, many different medicines in order to try and control the two diseases and the damage they were causing to my system. I finally reached a point about three years ago when I decided that living miserably with everything wasn't the way I wanted to live my life anymore. I had been so sick that I could barely walk most days. I had difficulty walking to the grocery store; I was given a handicapped placard so that I was able to park closer to everything so walking wouldn't be a hindrance in my daily activities. Being constantly in pain and sick was not a lifestyle I wanted to be part of anymore. The biggest issue was not being able to walk short distances, because of the pain of the disease.
I had a friend who encouraged me to run Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile (18-20 km) obstacle course designed to test all-around strength, stamina, teamwork, and mental grit. In my condition many thought of this feat as ridiculous. How can someone who could barely walk at times, and suffer so much pain just walking be able to finish a race like this? I set my mind to it and was able to achieve this race with my brother Alex and amazing friend Shannon by my side. I will never forget as I was almost in tears at the last few miles of the race my brother telling me big girls don’t cry we are going to do this I don’t care how long it takes. I crossed the finish line and broke down in tears, with my best friend Nikki and her mom there cheering me on. I was hurting after this amazing feat and at that point decided that I didn't want to live my life suffering anymore.
I needed to make changes to my life in order to live better. With the help of a great friend and gym member Nicole Davis, I decided to completely change my eating style. Paleo diet is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that humans consumed during the Paleolithic era. This lifestyle change allows you to go back to the basics of eating real food. I decided to start the diet immediately, and got rid of all the food items in my house that were not compliant with Paelo. I donated what I could and gave other items to friends. This started my lifestyle change into a better living. I also began working out six days a week. I began with bootcamp style workouts and running a lot more, even though it hurt at times. I was battling the disease and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. With these lifestyle changes I saw my Lupus and RA symptoms diminish and started feeling better than any medicine would be able to provide to me. I was able to improve my athletic ability and overall health state. With all of these changes, my Lupus specialist is now able to take me off the toxic medicines that I have been on for so long. I decided to take the natural approach to living and a better lifestyle overall. This change was not easy by any means but it meant living a healthier life. This past summer I was able to compete in a total of 25 races, a monumental achievement considering where I was just a short three years ago. These 25 races included 3 half marathons, Spartan races, Tough Mudder, and a Ragnar.
I completed my Spartan Trifecta, which was an achievement I had wanted for a long time. I competed in a total of 4 Ragnar Relays. I truly have my lifestyle changes of diet and exercise to thank for being able to achieve this crazy goal of so many races in a year. I have become a much different person and able to do things I never thought possible when I was sick. I have to thank obstacle course racing for a lot of my achievements. The encouragement and support you receive in these races is daunting. So many people, some who you don't even know, will encourage you and support you throughout the race. These lifestyle changes are going to allow me to live a healthier, longer, and happier life. My story needs to be shared so that people who are going through a hard and difficult time are able to see light at the end of the tunnel. This will allow hope and encouragement reach those who are effected by illness, discouragement, or doubt in their life. Next year I have many more goals that I plan on achieving. Now that I know I am capable of achieving what I put my mind to there is no stopping me.
I AM OCR – Cassedy Bowie