Lessons from running helped me after a Cushing’s disease diagnosis

Perseverance, determination, and self-discipline were important for my journey

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by Jessica Bracy |

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Before my Cushing’s disease diagnosis two years ago, I was not only fit, but also quite active. It felt so good to move my body. I worked out at a gym three to five times a week and loved it.

I also took walks around the neighborhood and went on painfully long runs while jamming out to the Dave Matthews Band. It was peaceful and put me in a Zen state. Movement also helped me manage the significant stress that comes with being a social worker.

Another way I managed stress was by traveling. I’d scour the internet looking for trail races across the country. I was particularly keen on races in mountainous or desert regions of the United States.

I didn’t know then how much these experiences would help me when I faced down Cushing’s disease.

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‘Running up that hill’

My most memorable race took place in San Francisco on my 28th birthday. Silly me, living in Ohio, I didn’t look at the elevation gains of the race before signing up. I trained for the distance, but failed to train for the part about running up a mountain. Looking at the race website, I saw beautiful views of San Francisco, which was enough for me to sign up.

On the morning of the race, I walked around and saw a hill leading to the trailhead of a mountain; that was the starting line. I laughed nervously as I realized I was in for way more than I’d bargained for.

During the race, I ran up the equivalent of 185 flights of stairs, took over 35,000 steps, and got lost three times. I used Apple Maps to find my way to the finish line. It took over four hours to complete, and I’m happy to say that I never gave up or quit.

That trail race was memorable in many ways. Looking back, I recognize the perseverance, determination, and self-discipline it required. Running 13.1 miles on a mountain is no small feat.

Two years later, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s. Before that, I’d been experiencing an array of symptoms, including weight gain, muscle and bone pain, “moon face” (a rounded face that alters your appearance), striae, and buffalo hump. I just knew something was wrong.

The skills I learned on San Bruno Mountain in California also helped me get my diagnosis and treatment. I was determined to figure out what was wrong and began to advocate for myself. Perseverance showed up time and time again as I had to find the right doctor to help me — even if it meant traveling distances to see them. Lastly, I had to be self-disciplined to get the testing done.

Throughout the diagnostic and treatment process, there were many times when I had to dig deep inside myself to find the strength to keep moving forward.

A landscape photo shows a sweeping mountain range that is lush with green vegetation in the foreground and extends to an urban landscape toward the horizon. In the bottom right corner of the photo is a female runner on a dirt trail.

Jessica Bracy runs — one step at a time — on San Bruno Mountain in California in 2019. (Courtesy of Jessica Bracy)

Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.


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