Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Superwoman 30 Years Later

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a name synonymous with excellence, drive and winning. Voted "Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century" by Sports Illustrated for Women and one of ESPN's "50 Greatest Athletes of All-Time," Joyner-Kersee competed in four consecutive Olympics, winning three gold medals, one silver and two bronze. She is the first woman to win an Olympic Gold in the Long Jump. She was even called "Superwoman" by Sports Illustrated. And Sports Illustrated for Women magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time.

Over her 20-year career, the track and field star's meteoric rise showed no signs of slowing down, until severe knee pain set in.

"Throughout your athletic career as an athlete you don't think you should get injured, but you do and you deal with chronic pain constantly and you work to still try to get to the top," Joyner-Kersee said in a recent interview with BlackDoctor.og. "Post my athletic career, some of the chronic pain that I was dealing with still linger on with me."

Training at an Olympic level for so many years took a drastic toll on her body and like millions of other people dealing with chronic pain, Joyner-Kersee's healthcare provider prescribed opioid medication.

Known by more common names like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, opioid pain relievers suppress the body's perception of pain. As with any drug or medication, there are potential side effects, and in having an "uncomfortable" conversation with her doctor, Joyner-Kersee learned she was experiencing one of the most common and perhaps most embarrassing side effect of opioid use: opioid-induced constipation (OIC).

"OIC is not your normal type of constipation," she shares and to help bring awareness to this condition, Joyner-Kersee has partnered with AstraZeneca to help others who may be living with this condition and feel alone.jackie joyner-kersee 2

Joyner-Kersee shares the OIC symptoms you should be aware of, including:

- Stools that are hard and dry

- Difficulty such as straining, forcing, and pain when defecating

- A constant feeling that you need to use the toilet

- Bloating, distention, or bulges in the abdomen

- Abdominal tenderness

She also explains how OIC is different from 'normal' constipation, and that it's very important to have the conversation with your doctor.

Another thing Kersee has to deal with is her lungs. While she was a top student-athlete at UCLA in the early 1980s, Jackie Joyner-Kersee was diagnosed with asthma. But she hid that fact from her coaches, afraid they would make her stop running.

“I was always told as a young girl that if you had asthma there was no way you could run, jump, or do the things I was doing athletically. So, I just knew it was impossible for me to have it. It took me a while to accept that I was asthmatic. It took me a while to even start taking my medication properly, to do the things that the doctor was asking me to do. I just didn’t want to believe that I was an asthmatic.

“But once I stopped living in denial, I got my asthma under control, and I realized that it is a disease that can be controlled. But there were things I had to do to get it under control.”

In 1984, Joyner-Kersee won the Olympic Silver Medal in the 7-event Heptathlon. In 1986, she was the first American woman to set a world record in a multi-event competition. In 1987, she was voted the Associated Press Athlete of the Year. In 1988, she won two Olympic Gold Medals. And in 1992, she won Olympic Gold and Bronze medals.

“The most important thing is to be able to run, jump, and get up in the morning and see my family and do different things,” she says. “And to do that, I have to take my medicines regularly. This disease can be controlled.”

Since her days as an athlete, Joyner-Kersee has accomplished much as a philanthropist and tireless advocate for children’s education and health issues (including asthma), among other areas of interest.

For more information on OIC, visit www.ohisee.com

Friday, May 29th, 2015

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