Charlie and his wife Joyce farm 1300 acres of the East Central Illinois prairie, growing wheat, corn and soy beans. They are both in their 60s and have three adult children and five grandchildren who live close by and make their lives very interesting.
During the mid and late 1970's Charlie had several occurrences of bowel-related illnesses and was diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis in September, 1977. He spent most of that harvest season in the hospital while his neighbors assisted his wife and son with the Fall work.
Flare-ups of chronic ulcerative colitis occurred 3 to 8 times for the next six years. During the worst times, Joyce stood by him and helped take care of him but recalls, “He was like a different person. He was angry and bad-tempered and not a very nice person to be around.” And, although family, friends and neighbors helped with the harvest, they feared Charlie’s illness might cause them to lose their farm.
In June of 1983, Charlie began a running program with the hope that better physical conditioning would help ward off the increasing frequency of his flare-ups. After the first few weeks of sore muscles and panting and wheezing he began to enjoy running. However, the ulcerative colitis returned in September of 1983, and once again, left him unable to continue with his daily activities.
After resisting surgery because of his fear, Charlie realized he could not possibly feel any worse and opted to have an ostomy procedure at the advice of his surgeon and fellow patients.
Charlie returned to running in February, 1984 for three reasons:
By 1987, Charlie was running 8-10 mile races. The drought of 1988 gave him free time from the farm and he began running 50-60 miles per week to prepare for the Chicago marathon. He has since run marathons in Missouri, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Florida as well as the Boston Marathon five times and garnered hundreds of trophies.
- He was happy that he was no longer sick
- He no longer needed to take prescription drugs
- He could eat almost anything he wanted without becoming ill
Charlie's ileostomy has truly changed his life for the better. He has become friends with many fellow runners and many ostomates and their spouses.
In fact, while the Kankakee Ostomy Association was touring the Riverside Hospital emergency care unit several years ago, a young woman shyly introduced herself and asked ‘You're the runner, aren't you?” The young woman then related that she had ostomy surgery only two weeks before.” Her decision to go undergo surgery came after reading the newspaper article in which Charlie was featured.
Since then, Charlie has received training as an ostomy visitor and is available to see or talk to anyone at any time regarding the surgery through his local ostomy chapter. “I believe my physical fitness level and running accomplishments present a positive image of complete recovery to any current or future ostomate.”
To date, Charlie has run more than 40,000 miles since his ostomy surgery, including 860 road races and 13 marathons. He and his wife, Joyce, have been married for more than 40 years and have three adult children and five grandchildren.