A Pittsburgh Marathon Story: Jennifer


Join Jennifer and Team LIVESTRONG at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon on May 5, 2013. Whether you run, ride or tri in 2013, just do it with Team LIVESTRONG. Visit www.teamlivestrong.org for more information.


My name is Jennifer Forsyth and I’m from Petoskey, Michigan. For the past six years I have suffered from intense stomach pains.  I was diagnosed with everything from IBS to Celiac’s.  Last spring I graduated from college.  After playing four years of college lacrosse, I was worried about getting overweight.  I had run 5K’s and 10K’s before, placing in all races I participated in.  So, this time I decided to run a marathon.  I trained for six months.  During training I ate 1200 calories a day, or the minimal caloric requirement for a human body to function per day.  I ran about 45 miles a week.  This meant that my body essentially was doomed.  All of this was in fear of gaining weight.  I just did not get hungry.  In the last month, my stomach began to swell.  I gained twenty pounds in about two weeks.  I ran my first marathon in October 2012.  I got sick about mile 20.  After five hours and thirty minutes, I crossed the finish line in my goal time.  Running a marathon changes a person.  I didn’t realize how much it would change me.

After the marathon, my stomach was swollen to the point where it appeared I was pregnant.  It was bright red.  I could barely eat without feeling pain, so I didn’t.  I had just run 26.2 miles on a gluten free bagel.  I didn’t eat for the rest of the day.  I had been told the symptoms I had were relative to those of people with parasites.  In November, I went to a parasite doctor.  It was discovered that every organ in my body had shut down during training except my heart, lungs, and brain.  My heart was next.  This was due to tape worms that had been in my body approximately six years.  I couldn’t believe it.  After going through colonoscopies, endoscopies, and the whole nine yards, no one had stopped to think why are this girl’s organs shutting down.  I even had a doctor tell me I was a hypochondriac and the stomach issues were all in my head.

For the next four months I was on too many pills to count.  For the first few weeks I took poison to get rid of the worms.  Imagine the horror of realizing these things had been in my body, feeding on my insides for the past six years.  Each week my doctor focused on another organ.  Getting my organs to work properly was painful.  It was a pain I never want to experience again.  If it had not been discovered that I had these parasites, I would be dead right now.

For me, running the Pittsburgh Marathon with Team LIVESTRONG is a celebration of life.  It’s about ensuring others do not have to suffer like I did. It is about all those doctors who did nothing, who told me it was all in my head.  It’s about doing something I never thought I could do.  It’s about health and living and being strong. To me, LIVESTRONG means fighting against the odds. Don’t lose hope.  Don’t ever lose hope.


  1. Stacy Shapiro says:

    Thank you for sharing…there’s no greater gift to yourself than the gift of life! Stay well and forever strong:)

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