Lo­cal woman over­comes health ob­sta­cles to go the full dis­tance

Dawn Scherzo to run 5K in Dis­ney­land next month

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

Long­time Watersedge res­i­dent Dawn Scherzo has fought many health bat­tles in the last decade, but has emerged stron- ger. She will put that strength to the test as she pre­pares to run the Dis­ney­land Half Marathon 5K next month.

A di­a­betic since the age of 13, now 52-year-old Scherzo has dealt with di­a­betic fi­bromyal­gia and neu­ropa­thy as a re­sult of her con­di­tion.

About 10 years ago, she was also di­ag­nosed with chronic ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis and di­ver­ti­c­uli­tis.

Ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis is char­ac­ter­ized by in­flam­ma­tion and ir­ri­ta­tion of the in­testines and colon, while di­ver­ti­c­uli­tis oc­curs when pouches form in the colon, which of­ten leads to in­flam­ma­tion and in­fec­tion. Both con­di­tions can lead to de­bil­i­tat­ing ab­dom­i­nal pain, as well as di­ar­rhea and con­sti­pa­tion.

In the years fol­low­ing her di­ag­no­sis, Scherzo dealt with in­creas­ingly-fre­quent episodes, not­ing that, even­tu­ally, she was miss­ing mul­ti­ple days of work per week due to flare-ups of symp­toms.

Once ac­tive, her life came to a halt.

“I fi­nally got to the point where my qual­ity of life wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” she said.

Treat­ment for Scherzo’s con­di­tions have been a mix of diet, ex­er­cise, med­i­ca­tion and surgery.

In re­cent years she has had sev­eral in-pa­tient hospi­tal stays and un­der­gone mul­ti­ple surg­eries, in­clud­ing a pro­ce­dure to re­move her sig­moid colon (the end of the large in­tes­tine) in March.

Add to that the sig­nif­i­cant in­juries she suf­fered in a car ac­ci­dent last Oc­to­ber that left her out of work for sev­eral weeks, and Scherzo was quickly reach­ing the end of her rope.

En­ter Cigna’s health in­sur­ance’s Re­turn to Work and Achilles pro­grams.

An em­ployee of Quest Di­ag­nos­tics, a Cigna cus­tomer, Scherzo re­ceived ac­com­mo­da­tion and as­sis­tance through Cigna’s Re­turn

to Work pro­gram, which aims to keep em­ploy­ees in the work­place.

She also en­rolled in the Achilles pro­gram. As part of the pro­gram, she was part­nered with a coach who pro­vided her with re­sources (such as a gym mem­ber­ship) and guid­ance to im­prove her diet, get ac­tive and change her life.

Since join­ing, Scherzo has made it her mis­sion to stick to a healthy diet (fruits, veg­eta­bles and lean meats), do some­thing ac­tive ev­ery day and care­fully mon­i­tor her health con­di­tions.

Since her surgery and join­ing the pro­gram, Scherzo has seen her health im­prove dra­mat­i­cally. She has lost 30 pounds and has

only had four flare-ups of her col­i­tis and di­ver­ti­c­uli­tis since March, ver­sus mul­ti­ple flare-ups per week be­fore.

Now, Scherzo is ready to put her new­found health to the test. Cigna is spon­sor­ing her and two other cus­tomers to par­tic­i­pate in the Dis­ney­land Hald Marathon 5K in Cal­i­for­nia from Sept. 1 through 4.

Since be­ing in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in April, Scherzo has been hard at work train­ing.

“I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to run the whole 5K,” she noted, adding that she may run half and walk half.

Asked what her main mo­tiva-

tion is for con­tin­u­ing to fight, de­spite nu­mer­ous health strug­gles and set­backs, Scherzo pulled out a photo of her grand­son.

“My life,” she said, smil­ing. She cited her whole fam­ily as in­spir­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing her to suc­ceed.

Be­yond next month’s 5K, Scherzo plans to stay ac­tive. Her goal is to par­tic­i­pate in the Crohn’s & Col­i­tis Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica’s fundraiser half-marathon in New Or­leans next Fe­bru­ary.

When asked what ad­vice she has for oth­ers bat­tling through their own health strug­gles, Scherzo of­fered a sim­ple, three-word an­swer.

“Never give up.”

PHOTO BY NI­COLE ROD­MAN

Watersedge res­i­dent Dawn Scherzo has over­come de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­nesses to achieve her goals.

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