As a teen, living with Crohn’s (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) can be a challenge. There is always that constant worry of a flare up happening at any moment. The struggle of dealing with a flare up and balancing schoolwork is no picnic either. The fact that so few teens, as well as adults, are aware of this chronic disease is disheartening. There are approximately 233,000 Canadians living with Crohn’s or colitis. More than 10,200 new cases of Crohn’s and colitis are diagnosed every year. More media attention is needed. Public knowledge of this disease could mean more donations towards research so we can find out why people get this disease and then possibly find a cure.
Crohn’s disease is inflammation anywhere in the digestive system; while Ulcerative Colitis happens only in the large bowel. Neither is contagious and researchers aren’t sure if they are genetic, environmental or both. My symptoms started when I was nine. I had extreme stomach pain, lost my appetite and lost weight. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 10 years old and just starting Grade 5. I have battled Crohn’s ever since.
The physical pain is indescribable. Only those that deal with the same disease have a chance at understanding the feeling of that pain. I have been on almost every drug that is offered for this disease. I was on the steroid Prednisone three times and at one point was on an IV drug, Remicade. I had to travel to Vancouver every few weeks to get the IV drug at BC Children’s Hospital. Most likely I face a lifetime of medication.
By the time I reached Grade 9, I had run out of medication options to treat my disease. I missed months and months of school throughout my middle school years. The only options left were a drug that was still experimental for children, and surgery. I chose surgery.
Unfortunately my intestine was not reattached properly and sadly I would spend the next three months in a hospital. I underwent another three surgeries during that time to fix the first mistake and to recover from the many complications that occurred. The circumstances that happened with my first surgery are rare. Since those surgeries, however, my Crohn’s disease has been in remission.
I know that not all people with Crohn’s may even have to undergo surgery and for those that do most always have more than one. Surgery is not a cure for Crohn’s disease and in most cases it will return. Everyone with Crohn’s or colitis suffers from different symptoms. For me, the worst part is the mental strain and isolation that can be felt with this disease. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease or Colitis at this time.
Foundations such as the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada are dedicated to raising awareness and finding a cure. Every year the foundation puts on a walk to raise awareness and money for a cure, the Gutsy Walk. This year, for British Columbia, the walk will be held on June 9. Last year was my first time participating in the Gutsy Walk. I will be walking again this year with my friends and family. Anyone interested in participating in the walk, or donating, may visit CCFC’s website www.ccfc.ca.
Heather Hitchen is a student at Belmont secondary school.