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.
But like nearly 800,000 children and adults in the U.S., Camden is also managing Crohn’s disease — a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The condition causes intense stomach pain, diarrhea, fatigue, bloody stool and weight loss in severe cases.
Although the disease has uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing symptoms, Camden says Crohn’s hasn’t slowed him down or shaken his optimism.
“At first I struggled with having a disease that deals with a gross part of the body,” he says. “But Crohn’s doesn’t consume me and I don’t let it control my life.” …
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.
The IBD Experience Journal, created by the Boston Children’s Hospital Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center and the Department of Psychiatry, includes stories and experiences from children, young adults and parents to represent the collective wisdom of families living with IBD. Here are some of their stories, in their own words. …
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.
Growing up in Orlando, Florida, I participated in typical childhood activities and was what you would consider to be a “normal” kid.
But I was dealing with chronic, excruciating abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloody stools. At age 10, doctors diagnosed me with Crohn’s disease.
I went from one hospital visit to another and was prescribed various pills, injections and infusions, all of which failed at some point.
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.