After passing stones, Gonzales is now passing runners

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorStatistically speaking, the Chicagoland Area Running Association has found that only one percent of the United States population has completed a full marathon.
The race itself is challenging, I’ve run two, but exhilarating. Most of the people I’ve trained with have an incredible backstory. We get to know each other quite well over the 18 weeks of training. It originates with a modest 15 miles the first week, building steadily to a climax of 40 miles per week. That’s just for the novice.
While CARA has running clubs spanning across Chicagoland, I found an exceptional fit at Running Excels, unrelated to their merchandise. Due to the amazing comradery of their runners, I’ve been training with this group since 2012. My first year, I gleaned from their strength. Now that I’ve acquired stamina, the prior two years, I’ve tipped my cup to fill theirs by being a marathon group leader.
Two of my most memorable newbies were a married couple, Camilo and Jennifer Gonzalez of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. He’s a Chicago police officer and she’s a fourth grade teacher at McCormick elementary. They have three daughters, Stephanie (21), Grace (14) and Isabel (12). When they spoke of their girls, they’d light up. Though, one story about Stephanie nearly brought the group to tears.
At the age of 16, a mysterious health condition forced this social, active, athlete into a wheelchair. But, she prevailed and on Sunday, Oct. 12, she ran the Chicago Marathon. Nonetheless, she recalls a long journey to getting there. She said, “High school was a difficult time. I went from playing sports and hanging out with my friends to being doubled over on the couch, unable to move. I got depressed.”
Stephanie said, during her sophomore year at St. Ignatius College Prep, she felt a sharp pain on her lower right side during softball practice. She said, “I didn’t think it was anything at first. I took a break and went back to practice.”
That was the beginning of a mountainous climb to discovering the cause. Stephanie said over the course of a year, she had countless doctor visits and saw world renowned specialists before the source, kidney stones were detected.
Not exactly common for a 16-year-old.
As the kidneys filter, waste from our blood it creates urine. If salt or other minerals in urine stick together, they form kidney stones. It’s been said their size can range from a sugar crystal to a ping-pong ball.
I ran to the kitchen and chugged a half gallon of water after learning that!
To date, Stephanie said she thinks she’s passed about 80 stones. She said, “My doctor believes my body has an adverse reaction to how it breaks down sodium and calcium. I’ve played sports my whole life. I’ve eaten a lot of sunflower seeds and drank a lot of Gatorade. But not any more than my teammates.”
She said limiting her daily sodium to 1500mg with three to four servings of dairy helped minimize the stones but she’s not cured. The aftermath of passing so many has scarred her ureters, leaving her with chronic pain.
“I’m weaned now but I was prescribed Methadone twice a day to handle passing them,” she said. “I could feel them move through my urinary track as they were passing. It’d cause pain in my back, belly and sometime groin.”
Kidney stones have been known to cause frequent or painful urination, bloody urine, as well as nausea and vomiting. In Stephanie’s case, between the symptoms of passing stones and the side effects of Methadone, she was a mess. She recalled Methadone making her itch so she was prescribed another drug to counteract its effects but she said that drug made her sleepy. “I’d fall asleep talking, mid-sentence,” she said.
Stephanie is a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee. She expects to graduate in the spring with a degree in public relations.
Over the last five years, Stephanie has experienced health challenges she said she never expected at such a young age. But, she’s refused to allow her health to hold her back.
“I remember saying I wanted to run a marathon ‘one day’, when I was 15. But, I didn’t become inspired until I saw my parents do it last year. That was the coolest thing they’ve ever done,” she said, “The race wasn’t easy for me.
“I injured my hamstring two weeks prior. But, my entire family came out to support me. I saw them at mile 16 and mile 25.5. I couldn’t help but tear up when I heard them call my name. I couldn’t have done it without them and my running partner, Tracy. I’m just really proud of how far I’ve come.”
And now she is part of that one percent.

If you have a story of inspiration, resilience, wisdom, humor etc. Claudia would like to hear from you. Visit and click the contact the author tab for a chance for your story to appear in her column. Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.