10 years ago this past summer, I was a shy, rather-little boy sitting in a post-op room in the hospital hearing the words, “You have Crohn’s disease.” I had no idea what Crohn’s was at that time, why I had it, or what it meant for my future. I won’t go into my diagnosis and battle story, which we hear versions of so often. Instead, I want to focus on what this disease has done to my life that I’m grateful for. For the first four years after my diagnosis, I didn’t want anyone to know outside my family. I was embarrassed and just wanted to be “normal”, but who could blame me? I still have yet to really figure out what would be considered “normal”, so if anyone knows please let me in on the secret.

After those four long years of suffering in silence, I realized I could continue sitting around waiting for change to come and for things to get better, or I could get involved and help change things for the better myself. 

I chose to get involved. Looking back, I’m not sure how my 13-year-old self came to such a mature realization but I’m glad I did. I started by getting involved with CCFA and participating in their national “Take Steps” walk. My involvement quickly expanded to where I started my own fundraiser to benefit the foundation. Soon I also became involved with the Patient Advisory Council (PAC) for ImproveCareNow. Today I am still an active PAC member and the council’s Recruitment Lead. Most recently I was invited to join CCFA’s National Council of College Leaders, a humbling honor.

My life is busy, from being a student, to staying physically active, to my involvement at my university, to my involvement with CCFA and ICN, to maintaining a social life, and enjoying serious Netflix binges (as much as I hate to admit it), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And through it all, Crohn’s has been there. It’s had a huge impact on my life. Though there are definitely negative impacts from living with a chronic illness, I find it helpful to focus on the positives and remind myself that the disease doesn’t hold me back. Crohn’s has encouraged me to grow up and take responsibility in my own care, it’s helped me transform into a strong leader and developed my passion for making a difference and being a voice for all those who suffer in silence (like I once did), and its taught me to push my limits and see the great things that come from doing so. Despite the setbacks I’ve faced, I’m grateful because at the same time it’s empowered me to be a better person and achieve things that I never imagined for myself.

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