Fighting back against Crohn’s Disease

By Ashley Roberts
Guest Writer

April 18, 2013

I love my little brother, but I hate his guts. I understand that this is a paradox, but it is true. My brother’s name is Matthew. He’s 13, the smartest 7th grader I’ve ever met, a band geek, a Whovian and a Trekie, but most of all he’s entirely incomparable to any other human being on this planet.  Matt has insight and wit far beyond his years and a heart even bigger than his brain. So why do I hate my brother’s guts? Well, because they’re defective and they hurt him. Matt has Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by terminal inflammation of the ileum. In plain English, that means that Matt’s immune system is confused, so it attacks his digestive tract. His ileum (the very bottom part of the small intestine) is inflamed, and always will be. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, only treatments to calm some of the symptoms. It is one of the diseases covered by the blanket term, Irritable Bowel Disease (or IBD), the other being Ulcerative Colitis.

Crohn’s is a nasty little devil. Each day is different, so we never know what to expect. Matt can wake up one day feeling perfectly fine, but be completely overtaken by symptoms before three o’clock. Living with Crohn’s is a constant battle for control of your own body.

What’s exceptionally evil about Crohn’s disease is that it doesn’t only affect the digestive system, but it ambitiously tries to mess with the rest of the body too. Crohn’s causes all of those stomach-bug symptoms you’d expect it to, such as diarrhea, constipation, cramping, etc, but it also branches out to include non-digestive based symptoms including fatigue, weakness, body pain, joint pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, nutrient deficiency, and skin problems. This disease works in flares, meaning that those affected will go through periods of time (a couple days to a couple weeks) in which they are hit with a wave of symptoms. These flares can be severe enough to require hospitalization, and almost always interrupt daily life.

I’m one of those people who wants to change the world, even if it’s only a little piece of the world. So, I decided to start in the IBD community, and to be honest, that isn’t such a little piece of the world. 1.4 million people suffer from IBD in the United States alone. Thinking of these people, I started a team for the Philadelphia Take Steps, Be Heard for Crohn’s and Colitis Walk on May 18th. I set a goal for myself to raise $3,500 dollars in a year. So far, I’ve raised half of that, and I need a lot more help to get to my goal.

This month, you can help me by making a donation at Avenue 209 coffee shop. They’re selling little paper icons for a minimum of $1 on which you can write your name to broadcast your support for the fight against IBD. I’ll also be hosting an event at Avenue on April 20th at 1p.m. I’ll be talking about what it’s like to live with my brother having Crohn’s and my experience with working with the CCFA. Also, a friend of mine who has Crohn’s, Paul Van Auken, will be talking about his life with the disease.

If you’d rather give from the comfort of your own home, you can donate online at All of these donations are tax deductible, and more than appreciated.

Do you have the guts to help me fight Irritable Bowel Disease?

Ashley Roberts is a sophomore majoring in social work and can be contacted at


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