By Liam McMaster
My name is Liam. I’m 21 years old, and in the process of earning an undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. I was an athlete throughout high school, playing on my school’s basketball, soccer, rugby, and badminton teams. Being constantly active let me feel strong and healthy as I started university in 2014. I was ready for the next step in my life, eager to double major in geography and economics, and carry on playing basketball in intramurals.
My first two years at Queen’s went by smoothly, but at the start of my third year I started losing weight, and had repeated bouts of diarrhea and stomach pain. I knew about Crohn’s because my father was diagnosed with the disease when he was 19. In the back of my head, I always knew there was a possibility that I would develop the disease as well.
I first spoke with my family doctor, then a gastroenterologist. A colonoscopy at Mount Sinai Hospital in November 2017 revealed inflammation around my terminal ileum, and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A month later I learned I also had perianal disease, another result of my Crohn’s. That left me with abscesses and fistulas.
It was a lot to take all at once, and I was scared about the fact that Crohn’s disease is chronic, and unpredictable. But I’ve been lucky to be in the care of some amazing doctors and nurses, and communicating with them eased my worries. I’ve always felt confident in their efforts to care for me.
Soon after my diagnosis, I started on a biologic medication that combats tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), a protein that triggers inflammation in the body. The idea of needing infusions every two months for the rest of my life was intimidating at first, but I’m getting used to the routine now. The needles don’t bother me, and I bring books and magazines to pass the time during each infusion. I’ve had four infusions now, and so far so good. I feel stronger and healthier after each one, and I luckily haven’t had to deal with any of the more troublesome side effects. I’m back up to 150 lbs. after dropping to a low of 130 lbs. just before my diagnosis.
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has been vital in helping me take control over my disease. I’ve been able to learn more about the disease through their materials and from opportunities to connect with other people living with Crohn’s or colitis. I managed to line up a summer work placement with the organization as well, and I’m happy to now be helping out Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s development team.
Crohn’s can be a huge challenge to people with the disease, as well as their family and friends. It takes excellent medical care and ongoing support from my loved ones to fight the disease. I can’t stress how important my family was during the early stages after my diagnosis, especially my mom, who worked to keep my body, and my mind, healthy.
I’ll be heading into the final year of my undergraduate degree this fall, and I’ll also be enrolling in a Masters of Public Health program, because I won’t let Crohn’s get in the way of my plans.
With continued support for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, we can find a cure to help people like me, and everyone else who’s had a similar or worse experience with inflammatory bowel disease.
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