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Taking steps

Devin Stewart is raising awareness of colitis and Crohn's disease

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GOOD CAUSE :  Devin Stewart needs help to raise $6,000 for research toward curing colitis and Crohn’s disease. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • GOOD CAUSE : Devin Stewart needs help to raise $6,000 for research toward curing colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Confronting a disease your peers know nothing about is a lonely experience; trying to raise public awareness about the condition can be even more challenging. But instead of suffering in silence, 21-year-old Devin Stewart is fighting for a cause greater than herself: cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Stewart was diagnosed in September with ulcerative colitis, an extremely painful inflammatory bowel disease. Just after her most recent birthday, a gastroenterologist determined she had almost two feet of diseased intestine. It was a diagnosis that has profoundly changed her. “It was the biggest wakeup call of my life,” Stewart said. “I knew I had to do something different.”

 She had to drastically change her diet by eliminating all fatty foods; had to minimize any physical stress, including exercise; and most troubling, take leave from school. The disease finally fell into remission after three different courses of treatment, but returned far worse a month later. She was immediately hospitalized and given steroids intravenously during five days of intensive monitoring.

More than 1.4 million people nationally have such disorders. Ulcerative Colitis occurs most frequently between the ages of 15 and 40 years old and appears to run in families. The condition is as dangerous as it is painful: Upwards of 40 percent of patients have their colons removed because of massive bleeding, illness, or risk of cancer (about 5 percent develop colon cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health). Though some treatments have been effective at keeping the disease in remission, there is no cure. Stewart and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation are working to find one.

Two days after being discharged, Stewart learned about Take Steps for Crohns and Colitis, a national organization that sponsors events to fund research. She formed a team, the Colitis Crushers, to campaign for donations. They are now within $1000 dollars of their fundraising goal.  “Dealing with the disease has been a real bummer. There are endless ways this has affected my life,” Stewart said. “But at the same time, I can’t believe how many people have reached out. That is the most rewarding part of this, finding and meeting people who are supporting us in this cause or even dealing with it themselves.”

“I realized early on that to make this goal I would kind of have to put myself out there and try to inform the community about a really unflattering, even embarrassing disease if we’re going to find a cure. It’s a little-known disease and not really spoken about in public. I guess it’s something that’s hard for people to talk about, even to friends and family,” Stewart reflected.

During the past two years, more than 75,000 volunteers have helped Take Steps for Crohns and Colitis raise more than $13 million. Help support Stewart’s campaign by making a tax-deductible donation to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: Mail a check payable to CCFA to 125 West Newport Street, San Luis Obispo 93405 and reference Devin Stewart so the contribution counts toward her team. To learn more about the organization and track Stewart’s progress check out ccfa.org.

 

Fast facts

The Make A Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties is soliciting unused frequent flyer miles to help send children with life-threatening illnesses and their families on summer wish trips. The Foundation’s donated miles are down by 700,000 this year and reserves are nearly depleted. Anyone who has mileage credits from AirTran Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta, Northwest, United, or U.S. Airways, can donate by calling
676-9474

The City of Atascadero Community Services Department has kicked off registration for summer classes, camps, programs and aquatics. Sign up for swimming lessons, Zoo Camp, Water Polo Camp, cartooning, Hoop Improvement Basketball Camp, yoga for people aged 50 and above, and many more programs. For a complete list and registration see atascadero.org or call 461-5000

Lemos Feed & Pet Supply and Animal Shelter Adoption Partners (ASAP) have teamed to prevent pet euthanasia. ASAP recently launched its “Join the Pack” campaign promoting the importance of tagging pets to keep them out of shelters. Lemos is offering tags at half price through May 31 with the coupon found at JTPNow.org

Cal Poly will host Fight for Wrestling a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 22, in Mott Gym on the Cal Poly campus. Fans will see Casey Noland of Atascadero, a pioneer in female MMA, take on Jenny Trujillo of San Jose, and five other local bouts. General admission is $35. All proceeds will benefit Cal Poly’s Wrestling program. To purchase tickets, call 756-5806, or order online at gopoly.com. ∆

 

Staff Writer Matt Fountain compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Contact him at mfountain@newtimesslo.com.

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