Despite her condition, Sonya Goins has made it her mission not to let Crohn’s disease dictate her life. She remains active and has found a love for walking/running.
54-year-old Sonya Goins is a television news reporter in Minneapolis and a mother of three children. She also suffers from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Goins was diagnosed with the condition in 1985, while attending college at the University of Maryland. Initially, she thought that the cause might have been the food at her dorm. However, as her symptoms grew more debilitating, she spent more time at the doctor’s office than she did in class.
Doctors diagnosed Goins with ulcerative colitis, but after several unsuccessful treatments and additional testing, she was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. “There was a period when I didn’t know if I would make it. I dropped out of school for two semesters and moved back home so my parents could help take care of me. I had several rectal/vaginal fistulas. They were very painful and hard to get rid of. The hospital became my second home, and the operating room became a very familiar destination” she wrote.
At one point, Goins had to be put on total parenteral nutrition (TPN), a special technique that involves intravenous feeding of nutritional products. Although she could not eat any solid foods for six months, the treatment helped to put her gastrointestinal tract at ease, as well as to heal her fistulas and ulcers.
“Everyone has baggage”
10 years later, Goins got married, had children, and Crohn’s reappeared. Nothing seemed to help alleviate her symptoms, which is why in 2004, she underwent surgery to remove half of her colon and was put on Remicade. “It worked for a few years, but then I developed antibodies and had to be taken off the drug. Cimzia and then Humira were the next biological drugs targeted to treat my Crohn’s” she wrote.
Apart from experiencing issues with her colon, Goins also has Crohn’s in her upper gastrointestinal tract, which causes her to experience uncomfortable, painful symptoms. The condition has also affected her eyes, making it difficult to look at bright lights.
In January of 2018, Goins experienced a severe flare, causing her to go back on TPN. However, this time around, she is not allowed to eat any food – just hard candies, water, broth, and coffee on occasion – for up to a year. “Not eating food is starting to wear on me, I’m seeing a therapist to help me cope. I also pray a lot. Through the grace of God I’ll get through this. Despite my circumstances, I’m hopeful” wrote Goins. In fact, that is what she named her IV port – “Hopeful”.
Running high off adrenaline
In spite of her condition, Goins has made it her mission not to let Crohn’s disease dictate her life. She remains active and has found a love for walking/running.
On March 4th of 2018, she walked the New Orleans Half Marathon, emphasizing that crossing the finish line with her companion “Hopeful” was one of the proudest moments in her life. “There were many reasons to sit this race out – fatigue, pain, recent foot surgery, to name a few. However, I had a million reasons to lace up my shoes. I’m stubborn and I refuse to let Crohn’s win” she wrote. Goins walked 13.1 miles for her friend Mike Stark, who is also struggling with Crohn’s disease, for Minnesota pediatric patients, as well as for herself.
She also spent months training to run the Medtronic TC 10 Mile race, which took place on October 7th of 2018. “Crossing the Twin Cities 10-mile finish line was amazing. I didn’t PR, in fact I was rather slow. I’m just pumped by the fact I could even participate. In order to run/walk, I had to drink over 8 bottles of Ensure Clear Nutrition Shakes the day before and after the race. Let’s just say, it’s not enough calories to do a 10-mile race, energy was zapped at about mile 5, but I kept on moving forward” she wrote. During the race, Goins met a wonderful woman, Anne Marie, who has a prosthetic leg, but is an avid runner. The two connected at mile two and Goins said that talking with Marie helped to lift her up - spiritually. “Anne Marie is what I call a “divine connection.” She and I parted ways at mile 7—she was too fast and I was barely keeping up. Besides crossing the finish line, meeting Anne Marie was the highlight of the race” wrote Goins.
All throughout her journey, Goins stressed that receiving tremendous support from her family and friends has helped her a great deal in coping with the disease. “I’ve always been strong. But there are times when I have to be reminded that I’m strong. Friends — even strangers — encourage me. That really means a lot” she said. But even more important, Goins said, is her faith - “My mother tells me, ‘God won’t give you anything you can’t handle’. I pray a lot. My faith is what keeps me going.”
Turning struggles into strengths
Today, Goins is a Crohn’s/Colitis Foundation board member of the Minnesota/Dakota chapter. She continues in her efforts to show others that just because you have a chronic condition, does not mean that you have to let it define you. “My sickness has made me stronger. You can’t be shy when you’re walking around with a backpack full of IV fluids. I’m more confidant at work and in my personal life. I like to tell folks who are newly diagnosed with IBD to hang in there. You can do amazing things with your life despite the horrible diseases” she wrote.
Goins encourages individuals to research and spread awareness, as well as to advocate for themselves and for others. “This is how we’ll find cures. But most of all, remain positive. Your outlook determines your outcome” she said. As she says in her blog, Sonya Strong – “I have Crohn’s disease, Crohn’s doesn’t have me. I’m positive on purpose”