Life with Crohn’s Disease: Never give up

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Written by David McGuire, SMART Fitness
Follow him on Instagram: @smartfitness1992
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*Important: This is an opinion piece. This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician. There may be variations in recommendations and treatments that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Back when I was in high school, grade 12 to be exact, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. The disease greatly limited my life mostly due to the degenerative nature it played on my body due to an inability to eat or exercise. At this time, I pretty much did nothing, it was quite depressing and rather difficult to find meaning and motivation in my life. I went from a healthy, active 17 year old, to a sick, gaunt and feeble 18 year old, within a few months. I went from weighing 170 lbs to 98 in 4 months (technically 3 months and 3 weeks).

For those readers who are unaware, Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune disease (meaning my body is attacking my immune system, thinking there is a need to kill pathogens, when really there is nothing), that affects the lower GI (in my case the ileum and duodenum).

I went for several tests, check ups and hospital visits during the course of almost a year. During this time, medical professionals believed I had an STD, colon cancer, ulcers, irritable bowels and one even thought I was self-inducing the symptoms, for a period of time.

The eventual road to recovery began in November of my returning year or 5th year of high school. The entire 4th year (or final year for most Canadian teens), was plagued with 30 days of school attendance for both semester, compounded with lots of bed rest, little food kept down and tons of sadness. Sufficed to say, this was probably my most depressing chapter of my life so far (and hopefully it). I couldn’t interact with my friends, barely wanted to be around family, rarely left the house, hated the way I looked and felt, and most of all, I couldn’t be active. At this time I loved to play hockey and ride my dirt bike. I could barely hold the weight of the bike, and fatigued within 30 minutes of playing ice hockey. It was without a doubt depressing. But, the one thing that kept motivating me, was the fact that I believed there would be a light at the end of tunnel, things would have to improve eventually. They did. Slowly. Very slowly. It wasn’t until my 2nd year of University (at this time I am now 19–20 years of age), that I started to feel normal, in the sense that I interacted with my peers regularly, did not feel gross and had somewhat of a social life.

The one thing that helped to motivate me to push through, beyond all the crap (no pun intended) that was happening, was exercise and resistance training. Even though I was small. Even though I was weak. I tried my best and I improved slowly. One day I was scrolling through the internet when I came across a guy who also had Crohn’s disease (I can’t remember who it was for the life of me), but he followed a strict exercise regiment and detailed nutrition plan. I thought, ‘hey…maybe this will work for me’. So I tried it…and I got hooked! Not only did I start to feel better (exercise with my medicine, obviously), but I started to get stronger and did not hate the way I looked anymore.

To this day, I still remember my first program I did in the gym. It was a Steve Cook program: Big man on campus. My form was terrible, I wasn’t moving much weight, and I probably made little to no gains, but you know what? I loved it, and my body did too. From this point, I began to submerse myself into fitness with all that I had (at this point I am roughly 21–22): from fitness blogs, research articles, YouTube, fitness forums, you name it. I read it or watched it. I opened myself to everything fitness. Why? Because I cared. I cared about myself, my health, my body and most of all, my life. Fitness and the lifestyle associated gave me back my life…I could do what I love again!

Now, at the age of 24, I am helping other people do what they love again, by motivating, inspiring and helping them achieve their fitness goals, whatever they may be. The moral of my back story here is, don’t give up. Chances are, you aren’t alone, try your best, seek knowledge, never stop learning and growing. And most of all, embrace your flaws (as cliche as that is), because they may shape you into the person you need to become!

Stay strong ladies and gentlemen,

SMART Fitness