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Crohn’s disease fight continues

Author: Michele Lawson, STAFF
Date: Nov 12, 2009

BARRIE - The long-time owner of a Barrie judo club may be ready to protect himself from bad guys, but sensei Bill Shoup was knocked flat when hit by Crohn’s disease at age 24.

“It took them four years to diagnose it,” he recalls of the excruciating stomach pains and accompanying diarrhea that got progressively worse. “Eventually they told me ‘we think you have colitis’ and scheduled a test, but then I got so sick I was hospitalized.”

A colonoscopy and a biopsy later, Crohn’s disease was confirmed.

The frightening results came after endless tests – including having to collect his stool for weeks and store it in the freezer prior to taking it in to be tested. He grimaces remembering balancing on a large frozen ice-cream container, and the added indignity of foraging friends asking about it as they checked out the contents of his fridge.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC) asks Canadians to break the taboo on bathroom talk by helping to advance public understanding of the urgency of finding a cure for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which comprises of a group of colon and small-intestine conditions that affect more than 200,000 Canadians. IBD had an economic impact of approximately $1.8 billion last year.

On Sunday, Nov. 22, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC) is hosting a public education symposium in Barrie as part of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month. The CCFC invites everyone from Central and Northern Ontario to attend.

“We are excited to bring the local community together in support of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month,” says chapter development coordinator Sarah McGuire. “By helping the community to better understand the reality and suffering their friends, neighbours, relatives and colleagues with IBD experience everyday, we can help to make finding a cure a priority in Canada.”

Currently, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus, leaving healthy tissue between the diseased areas and inflaming several layers of tissue. Drugs and/or surgery can help alleviate symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis, however, affects only the inner layer of the colon or large bowel. It can be completely eliminated by surgically removing part or parts of the colon, perhaps resulting in the need for a colostomy bag to collect waste material.

After a “why me” period where he feared life would never be the same, Shoup started doing research.

“I realized I had to take care of myself,” says Shoup. He experimented with diets, while the doctors experimented with drugs. He eventually found an experimental drug and became a guinea pig for it.

It provided better results with none of the side effects of the previous conventional treatments.

Now, between the flare-ups that still continue, he educates, fundraises and is happy to share his experiences.

“Crohn’s made me appreciate people and life differently, without a doubt,” he says. “I’ve been able to help people, too. I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

The Barrie education event is being held in conjunction with the launch of the www.getgutsymonth.com website initiative. Registration starts at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn. The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non members and free for youth. Limited space is available. Email smcguire@ccfc.ca for more information.

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