Photo credit: Julie Simms Photography
Missed classes. Missed hockey practices. Missed time with friends.
Kayson Antoine was ten years old when he first experienced symptoms of Crohn’s. At first, his family thought it was just food poisoning—but a week of intense pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy hinted at something more serious.
It wasn’t clear what Kayson was going through right away. Stool samples and bloodwork could only rule out parasites and infections.
Despite his worsening condition, Kayson played hockey whenever he could, coming off the ice to use the washroom and hurrying back so he wouldn’t miss a minute of the game.
Becoming a professional hockey player is his dream—and even as he grew sicker, Kayson never gave up. Currently playing at the highest level—AAA hockey—he has both the skill and determination to make his dream come true.
“He played when he was weak; he played when he was in pain; he played when he didn’t even feel like getting out of bed,” Amanda, his mom, said with pride. “He continued playing despite all the odds against him. His dedication and strength are fascinating.”
However, the once lively, active Kayson was quickly disappearing. The young hockey player had lost 16 pounds and developed anemia. His energy levels seemed to deplete. Something had to be done.
The Antoines expressed their concerns about Kayson's wellbeing to Dr. Andrea Moore, a compassionate physician at the Children's Outpatient Clinic (COPC) in Kingston. She listened closely as the family described his symptoms. After extensive testing, Dr. Moore referred the Antoines to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
Dr. David Mack received the family and sent Kayson for an urgent scope. While Kayson was in recovery, the doctor pulled his parents aside and gave them the diagnosis: Crohn’s disease.
“It was quite a relief,” said Amanda. “[But] at the same time, it was so scary to hear. We had so many questions and concerns.”
Luckily, Dr. Mack was happy to sit down with the family, answer questions, and alleviate concerns once Kayson woke up.
The kindness the Antoines experienced did not end there. Kayson’s teachers, friends, and coaches were all incredibly supportive.
“Kayson’s teacher allowed him to use the bathroom at any time without asking; they [made arrangements so] he could use the staff washroom if needed,” explained Amanda. “Kayson’s friends and their parents were always willing to help Kayson lead a normal life by still asking him [to sleep over], yet understanding [when he went] home if he wasn’t well.”
The Antoines’ family doctors, Dr. Sabra Gibbens and Dr. Jeffrey Sloan, have also been wonderful. After Kayson’s diagnosis, they continued to follow up closely and treat every visit with compassion.
Everyone around Kayson was always listening and willing to support him—and it’s this kind of empathy and understanding that go a long way.
Earlier this year, Kayson’s hockey team went to the Gutsy Walk as a surprise. In total, over 40 friends, family, coaches, and teammates came to show their support!
“Getting his friends and family to donate in his name was incredible to see,” noted Amanda. “He felt amazing knowing he was not alone.”
For many in our community, this is a familiar story.
Crohn’s and colitis are unforgiving. These diseases are, without a doubt, life-changing—but they can also bring out the best in us. Out of the pain, fear, and uncertainty are born determination, fighting spirit, and the comfort of knowing there are people who will stand by your side no matter what.
“This is a very scary disease, [but] there are so many resources out there that can help [you] understand it,” said Amanda. “It will get better. You can still live a fun, active life if you take care of yourself.”
After his visit to CHEO, Kayson was started on exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN). Almost instantly, he began to feel better. That said, Kayson still has good days and bad days. When he isn’t feeling well, there is no better cure than a heating pad, a good movie, and some snuggles with mom and dad.
Today, the young hockey player is in remission. His energy has returned and he is getting stronger every time he hits the ice! In June 2020, Kayson will bring his determination and passion to the table as the Local Honorary Chair of our Kingston Gutsy Walk.
He shares words of encouragement for other kids with IBD: "Believe in yourself. Don’t give up and push through the pain because it will eventually get better. Do all the stuff the doctors tell you to do to get better and trust them. You’ve got this."
The Antoines encourage others to get involved with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada: “Raise awareness. Go to the Gutsy Walk. Share your story.”
After all, it only takes one small action to make a big difference.
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