INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Rik Bag knew something was wrong two years ago when abdominal cramps, fevers and fatigue interfered with his tennis game.
When the top-scholar Carmel student got the diagnosis, he was shocked. He had an intestinal abscess caused by Crohn’s disease.
"I had to leave tennis practice a lot,” said Bag, now 16 years old. “I couldn’t come to practice a lot; even when I was in practice I couldn’t give it 100 percent.”
Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease characterized by inflammation of the digestive or GI tract. In fact, Crohn’s can affect any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it’s more commonly found at the end of the small intestine. It can also affect the eyes, skin and joints.
After coming to terms with his illness, Bag began a series of medications and modifying his diet.
"One thing I used to eat, was spicy foods and I really used to love spicy food. Now I have to stay away from that. It’s poisonous to me now,” he said.
Crohn’s is not well understood by most of the public. It’s estimated between 600,000 and 1.6 million Americans have it, but teens and young people are embarrassed about the illness.
Cramping, diarrhea, bloody stools, frequent defecation, weight loss, arthritis and eye pain are signs of the illness, and few want to talk about them. Not Bag, though; he’s spoken about it publicly, raised over $2,000 last year and is expected to raise $5,000 this year.
He hopes the funds will go toward better medications, or maybe even a cure.
His mother, Anu, sits on the Crohn’s and colitis foundation board.
“My child’s whole life is ahead of him,” said Anu Bag. “I want things to work for him today, tomorrow and for the next 80 to 90 years. We need a cure, we absolutely need a cure.”
Click here to find out more about Crohn’s disease and how you can participate in a 5k walk at Victory Field on June 25.