In honor of IBD Awareness Week, we wanted to give our readers an inside look at the condition with a member of the online IBD community. We reached out to Vern Laine, a patient and longtime advocate of Crohn’s disease. Vern was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1988 and writes about his experiences on his blog, Leaving the Seat Down. His blog has been voted one of the top Crohn’s blogs by Healthline for the past six years (impressive, we know). You can also find him on Facebook. We reached out with a few questions to help him share his story. Have a look.
When did you first realize you had Crohn’s disease? What was that experience like?
I never realized I had Crohn’s until I was diagnosed about six months after I noticed the symptoms. Back in the ’80s when I was diagnosed, Crohn’s wasn’t prevalent, and I had no idea what it was. I remember when symptoms started, though. I was lying on my couch with a cup of tea. I took a sip and suddenly it felt like something was stuck in my throat, like a gas bubble or something. As I took more sips of tea, I could feel it move down into my gut, and that’s when the abdominal pains started. Over the next few weeks and months, the pain intensified, and my weight started to drop drastically. I went from being an athletic 170 lb. to 125 lb. in six months, and 115 lb. at my lowest point.
What’s a common misconception about Crohn’s disease?
The most common misconception about Crohn’s is that it’s merely a “pooping” disease. It’s far greater than that. Yes, it’s a prominent part of it, but so are pain, achiness, malnutrition, skin problems, abscesses, fissures, fistulas, kidney stones, osteoporosis, joint pain, and fatigue.
How has your life changed since you were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease?
I was diagnosed less than two years after high school. I had wanted to join the police force, but that went out the window. I was a pretty fit guy before Crohn’s (a figure skater and soccer player), so I could take jobs only if they weren’t physical. I don’t get to eat what I want, and sometimes I can’t eat what is considered “healthy.” I don’t get to do everything I want either. But having said all that, if it weren’t for Crohn’s I probably wouldn’t have met my wife and have my two boys.
Why did you start your blog, Leaving the Seat Down?
I started my blog with the advice of my sister-in-law. She suggested I use it as a diary for my experiences, maybe even help other people, or at least make them feel like they’re not alone with the disease. I use my sarcastic sense of humor to try and bring some sort of normalcy to everyday life. That’s where “You might be a Crohnie if . . .” comes from. Sometimes you just have to laugh even though you’re hurting. I never thought it would get the views it’s received. Even if it helps one person, then I’m happy. I also use it to display my art.
What patient perspective can you share with doctors and clinical researchers?
The most important thing for doctors and researchers to remember is that Crohn’s is different for each patient. No one thing works for all of us. I wish there were a cure for all, but until they find the cause, each patient needs to be treated separately.
Head to CrohnsColitisFoundation.org for more information on IBD Awareness Week and how you can help.