Finally diagnosed with the disease after years of suffering, Abby Mann wants to help people understand more about the disease.
"My goal is to raise money for cures and to create awareness about these important diseases," Abby Mann shares on her fundraising page. "Many people don't know about these conditions, as they are invisible from looking at a person from the outside."
The fastest growing population of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are children under 18 years old. Debilitating, medically incurable diseases, over $1.6 million Americans are affected.
According to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, although considerable progress has been made in research, they do not yet know what causes this disease. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, debilitating fatigue, and extreme weight loss.
Abby Mann has experienced many of the symptoms. She has had to stop participating in many activities she loved and in addition, missed a lot of school.
Abby is looking forward to her role at the Take Steps walk for Crohn's Disease and Colitis walk next month. She hopes to raise $7,000 and is on her way with almost $4,899. collected to date.
We asked Abby a few more questions about her experience learning about and living with Crohn's disease:
Living60010: When do first remember having pain and digestive issues or was it present your whole life?
I don't really remember because I have been dealing with this disease for a long time (diagnosed in 5th grade), but my parents said that I was always complaining about my stomach when I was younger. It got worse in elementary school when I began to lose weight and wasn't growing. I had a very poor appetite and barely ate because I would end up being doubled over in pain.
Living60010: Did it gradually or suddenly get worse?
It gradually got worse. As time went on, I was growing less and in more pain. Blood tests and a variety of digestive tests such as colonoscopies, endoscopies, barium studies, and MREs determined that I had Crohn's disease.
Living60010: What are you able to eat?
I have a very restricted diet. I can't eat red meat, popcorn, raw vegetables, salad, things with seeds, large amounts of lactose and gluten, many snacks, fried food, acidic things, high fiber foods, and carbonated beverages.
Living60010: Are there foods you used to love, but no longer can have?
I have gotten used to not being able to eat many foods. I don't miss anything, but if I were able to have a normal diet I would like that. Every once in a while, I have a little bit of lactose or something I can't eat and end up suffering the consequences.
Living60010: Do any other relatives of yours have the disease?
Nobody else in my family has this disease.
Living60010: What have you learned about your body you didn't know before?
I have learned that I need to pay attention to what I eat and what my body is telling me. For example, if my stomach is hurting after I have dairy, I can most likely conclude that my body can't tolerate it.
Currently, I have learned that I have to take it easy and not do any physical activity. It is too painful and makes my symptoms worse to participate in gymnastics and lacrosse. I also tend to be more fatigued because of the disease and get sick easily because of my weakened immune system.
Living60010: What have you learned from spending so much time in hospitals and with doctors?
I have learned that my doctors are very dedicated and have a passion for what they do. Even though I don't always love what they have to say, I know it's for the best and to try and help me.
I have also discovered that I want to do something in the medical field because I want to be able to help people.
Living60010: What do you wish your classmates at school could understand about the disease?
I wish that classmates would understand what the disease is and that it is serious. I have had multiple people make fun of me for having Crohn's and make rude comments. Many people perceive it as "gross" or "strange" because they don't know what it is.
Some don't think anything is wrong because I look normal from the outside, even though my insides say differently. Often times people will try and give me advice on how to cure my disease. This is especially annoying considering there isn't a cure and they don't understand that people respond differently to different treatments.
If people are better educated, then more awareness will be able to be spread.
Living60010: Tell us more about your upcoming surgery:
I have an upcoming surgery that I am nervous for. I don't want it to happen, but I have recognized that I will feel better with it and my quality of life will improve.
It will be rough at first, but in the long run, it will hopefully be the right decision.