IBD: My reason to ride

Before I was diagnosed with IBD, my life was fueled by a simple reason: I woke up, got on my bicycle, and trained each day to win bike races. I worked hard and made sacrifices to become the best professional athlete I could be. It all seemed straight forward, really. But things suddenly got complicated when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis—that day, it felt like all the reason in my life simply went out the window. 

I remember the day that IBD steam rolled my life into the ground. I was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines, and listening to a doctor tell me that things were “not looking so good” inside my body. This was the first time I heard that I had disease all throughout my colon. At that moment all the reason in my life seemed to fade, and I was left lying there, crying out, “Why me?” Questions for which I had no answer flooded my head: What did I do to deserve this? What even is IBD? Will I ever race a bicycle again? 

The reality is that millions of people have been and will be in the same situation I was in. They learn that they have IBD and, in that moment, they too will search for answers and reasons.  They’ll be left with the question of how to move forward, where to go, what to do, and who to turn to. They’ll be thrust into the race against IBD, a race in which the finish line is not so clear. 

For me, at first having IBD was socially awkward, painful, frustrating, and oftentimes unrelenting. It made me feel as though my future goals felt distant and almost unimaginable. It put me in situations where I felt ashamed and embarrassed to talk about my battle with the condition. IBD can seem at first like a limit to what’s possible when you’re living in the confines of its world.   

But for the millions of people living with IBD, this doesn’t have to be a reality. I am living proof that IBD does not have to be a limiting factor. Since I left the hospital 10 years ago, I’ve achieved all that I set out to in cycling, even with IBD. I left the hospital not willing to accept any outcome other than following my dreams. In that hospital bed, I decided that I would use that same energy and determination that I put into cycling into beating my IBD. 


You see, in cycling we train our bodies to be the best we can be to win bike races. We break down every aspect of the equation, from diet to equipment and beyond. We search everywhere for ways to be better. So, when I looked at my UC again, I saw it like a bike race: I broke it down into pieces and considered how I could attack it from every angle. Just like with training, I explored different ways to support the treatment plan set forth by my doctor. Taking a whole-body approach and setting small goals helped me on my quest back to the races. Fast forward 10 years, and here I am: living in remission AND living the life of a professional cyclist. I achieved my goal of becoming a professional cyclist, racing around the world, winning bike races, and overcoming what seemed impossible. 

My IBD journey has given me to a new reason to ride, a reason to use my bike to bring education, hope, and inspiration to others living with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. I hope to use cycling to create a community that pushes the limits of what it means to live with these diseases. In December, I’ll be hosting a ride with Zwift, the most popular online cycling platform, to connect the cycling community and others to help find cures and improve patient quality of life for patients. Stay tuned for more details to come!

Cory Greenberg is an ulcerative colitis patient and professional cyclist riding for Team Veloclub Ratisbonia.