By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The parent of any middle schooler knows that they should expect to see some changes in their child. However, for Sherry Chan, the changes she saw in her son, Nathan, were not ones you would hope to see.
“At the beginning of the school year for his Grade 8, we noticed that there was some weight loss, things were going down for him physically. He just wasn’t really himself,” she says.
“He made it through the first part of the year, and come January, we noticed that there was a lot of frequent trips to the bathroom, stomach pain, headaches and because he has an older brother with Crohn’s, we connected the dots. My husband and I realized that he definitely has Crohn’s.”
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the gastrointestinal track.
While middle school can be tough for just about any kid, it was especially tough for Nathan.
“I normally had a fair amount of friends, a lot of social stuff, my academic stuff was really great and everything was really average. And then, I got Crohn’s which basically put my weight down, and it was tough to get back to normal,” he says.
“I knew that I was just going to have to survive the school year without really seeing or talking to my friends. That made me pretty sad.”
And it wasn’t just tough for Nathan – Sherry felt some of the pain as well.
“It’s really hard for the kids when they have a chronic disease because they end up feeling very isolated and on their own. They tend to withdraw because they miss a lot of school. From January through to the end of the school year, Nathan was absent for about 60 days. That’s pretty hard to deal with socially at that age. It’s a tough road for them when they’re young,” she says.
“It gets really tricky at times because it’s hard as parent to watch your child wake up and as soon as they open their eyes, they’re in pain.”
However, despite the diagnosis, Nathan still wanted to do his part, and started volunteering with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. And it was because of his volunteer work that Nathan was picked to attend Camp Got2Go, a camp in Nova Scotia designed specifically for children and teens living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
And while he is looking forward to the activities one expects from any summer camp, Nathan says the thing he is looking forward to the most is getting to meet people who know what it is like to be going through what he is.
“I’m happy that I get to go to an area where people are equal to me, are just like me, and know how it feels to have this disease,” he says.
“(I look forward to) making new friends. It’ll be good getting to know people that know how it feels to have this horrible disease.”