Like most high school seniors, Camden Vassallo of Norwell has a very busy schedule. The 17-year-old Thayer Academy student manages a heavy academic schedule, works at the local YMCA, is a two-sport, three-season athlete and is looking ahead to college.
Roughly 1.4 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which refers to conditions that cause inflammation of the intestinal tract. Children with IBD may suffer from abdominal pain, cramping, blood in the stools and diarrhea. Early signs may include fever, fatigue and weight loss.
IBD presents in two main forms: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. While both are lifelong conditions, they can often be treated effectively with regular medication and diet management, surgical care and psychological support.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis on December 23, 2009—a day my life changed forever. I went from a healthy and active 14-year-old to a teen with some very concerning symptoms: frequent and sudden onsets of stomach pain, exhaustion and the constant urge to use the bathroom. The diagnosis of a blistered, swollen, large intestine was both a relief and an added stressor.
But my diagnosis was just the beginning of my journey.
During high school, I was embarrassed to discuss my disease. Very few of my teachers and friends knew I had Crohn’s. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to manage school assignments, participate in athletics and still have a social life.