America first started noticing South African runner Annie Bothma at the Roy Griak invitational in 2015. She came in third! Not only is she talented, but her preferred running technique is going barefoot! Her fiercest opponent? A recent diagnosis of hypopituitarism.
Hypopituitarism is a rare disease in which the pituitary gland doesn’t create the normal amounts of hormones. This lack of hormones can affect people’s blood pressure levels, growth, and their abilities to reproduce. To read more about hypopituitarism, click here.
After completing the UVA Panorama Farms Invitational and placing 2nd, Bothma spoke about her very own foundation, The Grace Fund. At this point, Bothma is asking for donations to the foundation in order to help pay for her own medical treatment. However, the ultimate goal of this foundation is to eventually help others pay for medical treatments for their chronic illnesses. Donations can be made here.
Bothma also shared the story of her journey with her disease. She stopped growing when she was 11 and lost weight very quickly, along with suffering other symptoms, like fatigue, inability to endure cold temperatures, and low iron levels. It took many doctor visits over the course of two years, before the correct diagnosis was made, putting strain on both Bothma and her family.
Even during this difficult period of unanswered questions, Bothma still kept working hard to compete in running. At 19, in 2015 she came in third for the South African XC Championships and 48th in the senior-level IAAF world XC championships.
In 2016, she finally received an accurate diagnosis and found the treatment that works best for her. She has even been competing at high levels in the U.S. as well.
Bothma’s story inspires me because her perseverance shows that if you want to do something that you love, you should not let a diagnosis hold you back. As she states, “I run because I love it!”
I, myself, love swimming, particularly in the ocean. I know that it doesn’t matter how fast I swim, what matters most is that I’m having fun and staying healthy, overcoming my own diagnosis one stroke at a time.