Antoine Lapointe - Université du Québec à Montréal
Antoine is no stranger to life’s challenges. From a young age Antoine struggled to keep up in school and quickly feel behind his fellow classmates. Despite this, Antoine decided to not give up, work closely with a tutor, and become the first person in his family to be accepted to university.
Antoine’s journey through school met another major setback when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 21 resulting in his hospitalization. The combination of stressful classes and a full workload had left Antoine under a lot of pressure which was negatively affecting his health. He decided to concentrate solely on school and allow his body to heal.
Now that Antoine has regained his health, he has continued to focus on his studies. Studying Urban Planning, Antoine hopes to help others achieve a higher quality of life through creating city spaces that better suit people’s needs. He believe that sustainable development will help engage future generations.
Azalech Boyana - Ryerson University
Azalech experienced her first life changing journey when she came to Canada as a refugee from Ethiopia. As a newcomer to Canada, Azalech had to adjust to new customs, cultures, and to her new surroundings. After many ups and downs, Azalech was able to become a permanent resident of Canada, secure a job in her field, and was able to volunteer with newcomers who were also struggling to settle in Canada.
Azalech experienced her second life changing journey when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. After experiencing many symptoms, Azalech was finally able to find the right medications for her and ultimately regain control of her health and better understand her disease.
Now as a student at Ryerson University in the Early Childhood Studies MA program, Azalech hopes to build on her experience and education so she can continue to mentor, empower, and support children. She also hopes to give back to her community and continue to educate them on Crohn’s and colitis, and help break down those stigmas associated with these diseases.
Caroline Evans - Dalhousie University
Caroline Evans, a third year medical student, uses her experience living with Crohn’s disease to better relate to patients. Diagnosed at 14, 24-year-old Caroline empathizes with different aspects of chronic disease such as what it means to live with daily symptoms, disease complications, insurance and drug coverage issues, and scheduling required appointments and tests. Although it has been a bumpy road since her diagnosis, Caroline believes that she lives a good life with Crohn’s disease.
While studying to become a doctor, Caroline enjoys staying active and focuses on her physical and mental wellness. She is passionate about running, skiing, and working out at the gym, as well as managing a healthy diet. Caroline volunteers with Big Brothers- Big Sisters, a local elementary school’s Healthy-Living program, and has led a fundraiser for Syrian Refugees’ health needs with her fellow classmates.
Darrah Horobetz - University of Winnipeg
Darrah began her journey with Crohn’s disease when she was just 13 years old. Suffering from the various symptoms for seven months, Darrah was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Although Darrah was frustrated when she was first diagnosed, she has learned to accept the disease and the strength it has instilled in her.
Since her diagnosis, Darrah has gone on to attend university at the University of Winnipeg. As a full time student, she also finds the time to work 30-40 hours per week and give back to the community by volunteering for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. As a fundraising and volunteer coordinator, Darrah successfully organized the Bud, Spud, and Steak event in Winnipeg which raised over $4000.
Although the time since Darrah was diagnosed has been hard on her, she has not let it slow her down or hinder her from obtaining her goals. Darrah believes that her disease is only a piece of who she is and does not define her.
Jack Kerr - Queen's University
Jack understands the ups and downs of living with Crohn’s and colitis. A flare up can leave you emotionally and physically drained while the prospect of a relapse is always in the back of your mind, even when in remission. These were the challenges Jack would come to face after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 17.
Now studying Life Science at Queen’s University, Jack aspires to be a gastroenterologist so he can help others facing similar challenges and obstacles he has faced. Ultimately, he wants to be an ulcerative colitis success story and inspire others.
Through his volunteer work, Jack has already begun his work inspiring others. He has worked with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, Horizon Health Network, and the Don Connolly Golf Academy and is currently involved with Canada East Spine Research Centre and Brigadoon Village. Jack is also the co-chair of the Queen’s Crohn’s and Colitis Committee for the upcoming year and has raised almost $2,000 for the Gutsy Walk. Jack is also involved with the Kingston Chapter while at school and the Saint John Chapter when his is back at home in New Brunswick.
Although Jack understand the challenges of living with these diseases, he wants to show others that it is possible to have a normal and fulfilling life.
Lacy Brandt - Pacific Rim College
Lacy Brandt has to juggle lots of things: from being a full-time Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine student, to working part-time, to volunteering and maintaining extracurricular activities, she has a lot on her plate!
After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and having major surgery, Lacy’s life dramatically changed but she was determined to take her health into her own hands. She began volunteering with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and would educate her classmates on these diseases. Lacy has been involved with the Calgary and Victoria chapters, participated in the Gutsy Walk and in a video presented at the Calgary Gala where she was able to speak about her experience living with Crohn’s disease. Through volunteering, she also received valuable peer support which provided her the confidence to continue to reach out and help others.
Although stress can still affect her health, Lacy manages this by taking care of herself. This includes hiking, dancing, practicing yoga, and spending time at the beach.
Luke Knock - Nova Scotia Community College
“Hey, it could always be worse.” This is the attitude Luke has when addressing his Crohn’s disease. Diagnosed in the sixth grade, Luke and his family would go on to experience other health challenges. From his brother being diagnosed with Crohn’s shortly before him, his mother’s own battle with cancer, to his uncle losing his battle with cancer, Luke has had to endure a lot.
Through the years of struggle, Luke was determined to stay focused on his school work as to not fall behind. He was also able to maintain the activities he loved doing, like soccer, basketball, and playing drums. He was even able to take on new challenges like playing hockey and baseball.
Luke has also been able to give back to his community. He and his family take part in the annual Gutsy Walk and has encouraged other members in his community to contribute. Every summer Luke also serves as a camp counsellor through his church where he is able to encourage the campers to pursue their own passions despite their hardships.
Michaelis Hurst - University of Victoria at Aurora College
When Michaelis was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 19 she thought her life was over and she would never find happiness again. Although the last six years have been hard on Michaelis, her experience with Crohn’s has made her a stronger person and she feels happier than ever.
Michaelis attributes her involvement in the Crohn’s and colitis community as having given her much strength to continue on her journey. While living in Winnipeg, MB, Michaelis got involved with her local chapter by attending meetings, and volunteering at the M&M BBQ and yearly gala. Michaelis was able to find the support she needed and even became her local support group president when she returned to her hometown.
Now living in Yellowknife, NT, Michaelis also works with local gastroenterologists, nurses, dieticians, doctors, and other members of her community to increase the support in her area. As a nursing student, Michaelis also hopes to continue inspiring others and help them achieve wellness.
Rachel Meehan - University of Guelph
Despite being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over ten years ago, Rachel made a promise to herself that her disease would not hold her back. Since then Rachel has gone on to complete her undergraduate degree, a graduate certificate, travelled to three continents, advanced in her career, moved twice, and is now finishing up her master’s degree.
Rachel has also found the time to give back to her community. As a member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Sudbury Chapter, Rachel has been able to be involved in various events. They include hosting the “Let’s Do Brunch” program in Toronto, serving as the Media Captain for Sudbury’s Gutsy Walk (as well as being a Top Pledge Earner!), and speaking at the launch of PACE at Mount Sinai in Toronto, ON.
Through Rachel’s hard work and advocacy, she continues to inspire others. Ultimately, Rachel hopes to show others that it is possible to achieve your dreams despite living with chronic illness.
Shantz Bennett - Memorial University of Newfoundland
When Shantz was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 14 he had many concerns. Was this contagious? Could I pass this to my friends and family? Would I still be able to play high school hockey? Would I be able to keep up at school? For Shantz, it was a fight or flight situation.
For Shantz, he chose fight! Through the help of his family, friends, teachers and physicians, Shantz was able to focus on his health and still be able to do the things he once loved. Shantz went on to become a life guard, preform with his school’s drama group, joined the navy cadets, and was even able to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.
By choosing to fight, Shantz has been able to accomplish so much and give back to his community. Shantz believes that his experience with Crohn’s has given him new purpose and a positive outlook.