In 2016, I decided to do the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon and walked alongside my Mom, sister, and cousin. After completing it and finishing in 3 hours and 12 minutes, I decided to register for the race again in 2017.

Walking for hours does not come easily to me. Along with being a Type 1 Diabetic, I was initially diagnosed with Chronic Pancreatitis back in 2002 and have been sick pretty much non-stop since that time. I’ve had Whipple procedure in May of 2008, but still struggle with constant nausea and pain. In December of 2009, I had a total pancreatectomy with splenectomy as well as an auto-islet transplant. You name it, I have been through it all. Today, I live with chronic nausea and am pretty much resistant to all nausea medications on the market today. I am lucky enough to have a pain doctor who understands what I am going through and I have a pain pump that has been a lifesaver.

Karen and her training partner/husband, David

Once the weather was nice enough in 2017, I began to train for the half marathon by walking about 3 miles every day with my husband, David. Every night when my husband came home from work, we went over to the Eagle Creek Greenway and walked at least 3 miles every evening. My husband is my biggest motivator in getting me ready for the half marathon. He was by my side every step of the way as we walked to train for the half marathon.

On Saturday, September 30, 2017, I walked the half marathon with my Mom. But, throughout the race, I never felt like myself. At the halfway point, I started to feel as if my blood sugars were beginning to bottom out. I checked my blood sugar and things were still in the normal, but I went ahead and tried to eat a few Skittles and even a few Sports Beans. But, I still did not feel like myself.  I was on track to finish the race in just over 3 hours, but my body decided that I just could not keep up anymore. Luckily, my Mom was not far behind me – I am so thankful to have had her by my side when I just did not feel as if my body would allow me to finish the race. There were many times during this event that I wanted to just give up and ask for someone to take me back to the start/finish line but thankfully she was with me the whole time and she pushed me just enough to be able to finish the event.

Karen, with her Mom, Margaret (left) during the half marathon

I finished the half marathon at 3 hours 18 minute (overall pace of 15:08 per mile). Being able to cross that finish line with my Mom just steps behind me made me the proudest woman in the world. She is 65 years young and still going strong! I could not have asked for a better partner to walk this half marathon with!

I made the decision to walk half marathons because I wanted to try to take back a little control of my life and give myself a goal to work towards. I can tell you that I never thought that I would be able to tell someone that I walked a half marathon, let alone 3 now. Being chronically ill and a Type 1 Diabetic is not a life sentence, and no one should feel like it is. I know that it is scary to try something new or worry that you might have issues with your blood sugars or just overall feeling crappy. But you can take control of how you feel. Do not let this disease hold you back from the things that you love to do.

I wanted to prove to myself and some people around me (that do not really understand my disease), that just because I am chronically ill does not mean that I cannot do something good for myself every once in a while. People who have never dealt with a chronic illness before can never truly understand how difficult it is for us to try to accomplish certain things in our lives. There are so many things we must do to prepare ourselves just to get out the door to go to dinner, let alone to walk in any type of event.

Karen with her family post-race at the Indianapolis Monumental 5K and Half Marathon

I hope that anyone who is dealing with any type of pancreatic disease, and those who deal with other issues as well, know that you can push your body and you can learn to really understand your body a little better when you decide to get active. Whether you decide you want to walk, run, bicycle, exercise at the gym….all things are possible. Set a goal for yourself and work towards it. I can tell you from my experience that I feel so overwhelmed with joy and happiness that I do cry when I walk or run across that finish line. That feeling of accomplishment is a beautiful thing!

So get out there! You are the only thing that is holding you back!