Editor’s Note: When The Inside Tract® last checked in with world-class speed skater Sarah Lang at the beginning of our first UCan Speak From the Gut! Campaign, she was a student at the University of Calgary and an Olympic hopeful in training, learning to manage living with UC. Since then, Sarah’s life has gone down a different path – but what hasn’t changed is her perseverance in the face of new challenges, her sense of adventure, and her positive outlook on life. We caught up with Sarah recently, to see what she’s been up to since last year’s campaign.
Skating on to New Challenges
Since last year’s UCan Speak From the Gut! campaign, a lot has changed in my life. First of all, I made the difficult decision to retire from my skating career and embark on a new adventure. My last season turned out to be one of the best of my career, and I wanted to leave on a high note. I also graduated from the University of Calgary with a Masters degree in economics and I wanted to travel before starting a new career.
I had always been interested in learning to speak Spanish and I’m an avid snowboarder, so I wanted to try my hand at surfing. When the opportunity to visit Nicaragua came up in November 2008, I jumped on it. I spent an incredible month immersed in the culture, learning the language, surfing, and sightseeing.
For many individuals with ulcerative colitis (UC), an experience like this would seem almost unimaginable. It is frightening for a UC patient to be away from a doctor or pharmacist, especially in a country where English is not widely spoken. But I wasn’t about to let UC stop me from living my life and having new experiences.
I talked to my doctor before I left for my trip and he gave me his e-mail address, in case of an emergency. Coincidentally, I also met an ER doctor while in Nicaragua who quickly became my ‘surf buddy’ and who could answer questions I had while experiencing symptoms. I also learned how to say “I’m sick in my intestine,” in Spanish, just in case I needed to explain my condition to someone who didn’t speak English. In the end, I was one of the only people in the group of travellers I met who didn’t get sick. I was so used to taking precautions with what I eat and drink and I think that helped me stay healthy.
Shortly after I got back to Canada, I made the official transition from the world of speed skating to starting a career as a consultant at Deloitte, an international professional services firm. I’m also getting ready to travel to Vancouver, to work as the on-site live announcer for the World Long Track Speed Skating Championship and, if all goes well, I’ll be doing the same thing at the 2010 Olympics!
With all the changes, my lifestyle is so different from what I’m used to. I’m still adjusting and, with stress being one of the biggest triggers for my flares, I have had some symptoms. I just keep reminding myself that I have dealt with high-pressure situations before, and I can get through them. I still apply some of the stress management techniques I learned in my speed skating training, which have really helped me stay well and keep a positive attitude.
Staying on Track
When I was first diagnosed and just learning how to manage my symptoms, finding the right treatment regimen was a big win. UC is different for everyone, so I worked closely with my doctor to find what worked for me. I tried quite a few therapies, including suppositories, enemas, and oral medications, until I found that Asacol® 800 is the product that works best for me.
Now that I’ve been living with UC for a couple of years, sticking to my treatment plan has been just as important as ever. Whether I’m out on a fishing boat on the Nicaraguan coast, or working late at the office, Asacol® 800 is easy for me to take, and it provides fast relief of my symptoms when I need it to. I still have occasional symptoms, but by staying on track with my treatment plan, I know I can handle them.
Having the Guts to Face Adversity
All of my life experiences, the good and the not so good, have given me more confidence as I move through this major transition in my life. Having UC has taught me a lot about myself – I’m stronger than I realized. A UC diagnosis was by far the biggest challenge I have ever faced but I got through it, so I know that I can get through these new challenges too.
Words of encouragement for UC patients
- Don’t lose hope The first year or two after being diagnosed with UC are the most difficult, because you’re still discovering how to manage your disease.
- It’s not all bad The longer you have the disease, the better you become at managing it. Eventually, I learned to see each flare as an opportunity to learn how to manage the next one with a new angle or perspective, and improving as I go along.
- Challenges will only make you stronger For me, a UC diagnosis was one of the hardest times in my life, but it has made me stronger. If you can manage the tough times, you can manage anything else in life.
- Stay positive Remind yourself how strong you are to make it through the rough patches.