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Featured Gut - November 2008

Karissa Schmidt, Lethbridge Chapter

(Archived Guts: Brittany Kelly, Michael Kelly, Ashley Senuita, Karissa Schmidt, Kaella Carr, Jesse Scobie & Neil Kirby, Prednisone Princesses, Sarah Howes , Michelle Aubie, Natasha Rossi)

My name is Karissa Schmidt. I am 22 years old, in the middle of acquiring a BASc in Music and Psychology, and an enthusiastic volleyball player, singer, camper and kayaker. I also have Crohn's disease and chronic pouchitis. I was actually diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 14. By age 18, I had had my large intestine surgically removed, dealt with an ileostomy bag for seven months, and had the ileoanal anastomosis and J-pouch created. I immediately developed chronic pouchitis, and then over the next two to three years, also developed Crohn's disease. In the past year and a half, I have also been diagnosed with a list of new auto-immune, chronic disorders (10 total diagnosed illnesses to be exact).

I have tried several medications, countless food restrictions and many alternative therapies. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don't. This disease and all those attached to it is a continual learning process, a daily struggle, but as long as I get some good days, I know that good days exist.My last resort at this point in time is Remicade. Fortunately for me, after seven and a half years of constant pain and nausea, Remicade, coupled with Methotrexate and antibiotic therapy, has finally given me some relief. I now have more energy than I ever had, and have been able to participate in more strenous activities without getting sick for days afterwards. I have been able to travel and work longer hours as well.

Following my reconnective surgery, I became quite depressed. I had finally come to understand that this would never fully disappear- that I've got it for life. My outlet during this time was a song. Before I knew it, I had written "I'm Here". The words and the music depict both the tragedy, struggle and depression of dealing with a chronic illness, but also the hope to continue the fight. I produced and sold copies of the single, donating a portion of the proceeds to the CCFC. There aren't many copies left but if you are interested in purchasing one, email youth@ccfc.ca.

I am also a volunteer for the CCFC- helping to organize events and participating in regional conferences. I will continue to strive to be a role model for those who are suffering with this illness. I will fight. I will continue to do the things that I love, and I am always there to help someone else through it. Although the entire journey has been and will continue to be a constant struggle, going through this experience has given me insight, compassion, determination and has encouraged me to inspire those who are just at the beginning of their journey.

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Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada