I have read countless, powerful stories from people suffering from Crohn’s disease. The number one thing that stands out is resilience! Al Fliss, one of our board members, graciously wrote a blog entry which you will find on our website. Al chronicled his experience from his first symptoms through the challenges of simply surviving to earning a PhD, creating a family and finally enjoying a long-standing remission.
Another board member, Antony Gout, the son of Propel a Cure’s founder, has also been challenged. Though his case differs greatly from Al’s, his future turned bleak as his body started to betray him and the disease silently progressed. One thing about Crohn’s is that, although there are telltale signs, symptoms can be very different depending on the individual. For some, their first symptom is when they are rushed to the emergency room, doubled over in pain as their intestines rage. For others like Antony, the symptoms were gradual. Unlike Al, who can pinpoint the trigger, Antony’s condition progressed from mild to very bad over a course of a year or perhaps even longer, though in hindsight there were signs that could have given us a clue. During his ordeal, he was misdiagnosed several times, melting away to a debilitating 115 pounds, fistulas plaguing him. Nothing seemed to help, and his future as a recent college graduate from UCLA looked more and more compromised.
But the amazing thing - and this is so very common among people with Crohn’s - he refused to give in. It was not an option. After graduating with a degree in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology, his next step was medical school, and nothing was going to stop him. Despite the pain, the raging fire in his body, he studied for the MCATs, and volunteered at La Clinica in Oakland and Highland Hospital, working about 20 hours a week in the emergency room, as well as with heart patients and diabetics; during that time he also helped create a book for children on healthy eating. The day he was to take the MCATs he was flaring but somehow plowed through and scored in the 99th percentile, an incredible accomplishment for anyone, healthy or not.
He managed and never stopped. He applied to medical school, writing that his disease gave him a different perspective, viewing his patients in a privileged light. He was accepted to the University of Iowa and last year became a doctor. He is now in his first-year residency and has been helping to treat patients suffering from Covid-19.
It has not been easy and there were times when I wondered if he would ever be able to hold a job. His treatment has failed several times. His scopes always show inflammation. Emotionally too, it was difficult as he, like so many others, was a young adult ready to conquer the world. Despite enduring things that would bring many of us to our knees, he has not only managed but excelled - through crazy 20-hour shifts - and has a promising future that propels him forward.
Antony is not unique. He is just like so many others… RESILIENT!