By Brendan Wills
I spent years “dealing with” my condition. I saw specialists in other practices who prescribed different drugs to treat my colitis, but nothing worked. I was getting sicker and had no energy for the things I enjoyed most — spending time with my family, traveling, and my real passion, competing in triathlons. In February 2010, I decided I’d had enough and needed to see the best, once and for all. After doing much research, I contacted Dr. Raymond Cross through the University of Maryland’s Web site, and made an appointment.
My experience with the University of Maryland’s Department of Gastroenterology was great from day one. Dr. Cross took a complete history of my symptoms, treatments and medications, discussed my options, and came up with a game plan. In the spring of 2010, after exploring several different medicines, Dr. Cross and I decided on Remicade. I had my first infusion of Remicade, a drug most commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but which has shown success in treating patients with ulcerative colitis. That first treatment changed my life, and I haven’t looked back since.
Almost immediately, I felt better than I had in years. I really couldn’t remember the last time I had felt this normal. I have continued the treatment for almost two years, and can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do without Dr. Cross, his team, and their treatment plan.
Since receiving care from Dr. Cross and starting the Remicade, I have been able to train for and compete in more than 20 triathlons. In November 2010, not even one year after starting my treatment with Dr. Cross, I completed my first Ironman triathlon. The Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile marathon. In the 14 hours it took me to complete that first race, I had a lot of time to think about where I was, compared to where I had been just one short year ago. A year ago, I was miserable, sick, weak, and unsure of what the future held for me. Fast-forward nine months, and here I was, having trained over 100 miles swimming, 3000-plus miles biking and 500-plus miles of running to compete in the biggest race of my life.
As my strength and energy have returned, I have been able to train harder and race with no limitations. On October 29, 2011, I competed in the same Ironman race and finished in 11 hours, 12 minutes, which was over three hours faster than the year before. Next year, my goal is to go even faster and finish in under 10 hours.
Today, it’s been almost two years since that first appointment with Dr. Cross. Without the attention and dedication of Dr. Cross and his team, I have no doubt that I would not be able to train for and compete in the triathlons that I love so much. I finally have my life back, and I owe my health to Dr. Cross, his team, and the University of Maryland Department of Gastroenterology.