For the first time in her life, Jamie Subchyshyn is finally learning what it’s like to be well.
The 28-year-old was first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 19 years ago, when she was just nine, after months of severe fatigue, fevers, vomiting, stomach pain, joint pain and other undesirable symptoms. She’s gone through countless tests and medical procedures. She’s been hospitalized for over a month and unable to work for periods of time.
While the disease led to difficulty, Subchyshyn persevered. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and started a career as an elementary educator.
In 2018, she tried a new medication. It helped turn her life around.
“It’s been a huge relief,” she said. “I realized at the age of 28 that I had never felt well before. Feeling well was completely foreign to me. At 28 years old I’m learning this whole new quality of life and a whole new aspect of having energy I’ve never had before, having mental clarity I’ve never had before.
“It’s been a new experience to feel well at 28 and have that little bit of relief.”
Subchyshyn’s journey isn’t uncommon.
Over 270,000 Canadians have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Someone new is diagnosed every hour.
This Sunday, Prince Albert residents will come together to raise funds and awareness of Crohn’s and colitis at the city’s third annual Gutsy Walk. The event has seen impressive growth. After raising only $1,600 of their $5,000 goal in 2017, they raised $7,194 of their $2,500 target last year, and have already surpassed this year’s $7,500 target with two days to go. As of press time, 106 donors had contributed a collective $8,005.
Nationally, the walk has raised over $35 million for research and patient programs since 1996.
“Crohn’s and colitis are autoimmune diseases that cause the body to attack itself, leading to inflammation of all or part of the gastrointestinal tract. People with IBD endure abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, fatigue, frequent and urgent bowel movements, internal bleeding, and unintended weight loss,” The Gutsy Walk says on its website.
‘There are no known cures for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, and that’s why we need you to walk with us.”
About 80 per cent of the funds raised go towards Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s mission, with six per cent going to volunteer and chapter services and the rest to administration. Of that 81 per cent that goes towards the organization’s mission, 80 per cent goes towards research and the other 20 per cent towards education, patient programs, advocacy and awareness.
This year, Subchyshyn is the honorary chair of the Prince Albert walk.
“I just am hoping to work towards more treatments or a possible cure for the disease. A lot of people in my family have Crohn’s or colitis,” she said.
They’re lesser known diseases and also commonly misunderstood. People think that they may just be a stomach ache when they’re so much more, they’re actually potentially life-threatening diseases.”
Because Subchyshyn was so young when she was diagnosed, at times, she felt alone.
“It’s important to raise awareness, to educate the public and to create a community for people with Crohn’s and colitis in Prince Albert,” she said.
“I think it’s important to … invite people into our organization, to invite people to volunteer with us and to create a community for people with these struggles.”
Subchyshyn said she was “elated” to learn that the Prince Albert walk had surpassed its goal.
“It’s really awesome to see people putting their money towards this,” she said.
“It makes me feel like people are beginning to recognize Crohn’s and colitis as severe conditions that need to be treated and we that need to find a cure for.”
The 5-km Prince Albert Gutsy Walk starts at noon Sunday at the Elks Lodge, 98 8th Avenue East. Registration starts at 10:30 a.m. Participants can receive a Gutsy Walk T-shirt if they raise $100 or more. You can register as an individual or as a team. For more information or to register, visit gutsywalk.ca.