In this guest post, we get the story of two guys that used a second chance at health and life to make a difference in the battle for IBD awareness, and prove that anyone has the ability to make a difference. Cousins Jack and Nick start following one of their dreams, and after a Crohn’s diagnosis, it leads them to pursue another. Follow their journey on CowboysVsCrohns.com.
My cousin Nick and I have always had big dreams—playing football for Notre Dame, going on safari in the Australian outback, becoming world-class fishermen, becoming cowboys (John Wayne was our childhood idol), herding cattle from Texas to Montana (we watched Lonesome Dove a lot), and the list goes on. Some of these have come true (at least partially) while others have not.
The summer after we graduated from high school, our dream of becoming cowboys came true as we began our work for Warren Johnson at Hells Aroarin’ Outfitters. We would wake up early, catch, brush, and saddle 60 head of horses, build fences, cut wood, shovel manure—all in between taking hundreds of tourists a day on horseback rides. The days were long, arduous, and jam-packed with work, but we’d never had so much fun or felt so alive. But it wasn’t always that way, for me [Jack] at least.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the summer before my 8th grade year. It started out with mild fatigue and discomfort, but progressed into no energy, extreme pain, and weight loss disproportionate to my body. It was a battle every day to go to school. I soon lost the desire to even make an effort to hang out with my friends and interact with the people around me. It seemed Crohn’s had won, but my family never gave up on me and eventually I began to feel better.
I switched medications and in the blink of an eye, I was back (literally, 4 days to make a 180 degree turnaround!). I was able to do all of the things I used to do—play sports, hang out with my friends, go fishing, interact with my family—and with a renewed vigor.
It was like I was born again and had a second chance at life. And this time, I was going to do something with it.
Cowboys vs. Crohn’s is a project that my cousin Nick and I have formulated over the past couple of years. It takes the best parts of our summers on the ranch in Montana and combines it with a cause that we can truly support, given the way Crohn’s has affected our family.
Starting on July 7, 2013, we are setting out from Hells Aroarin’ Outfitters in Gardiner, MT on a 1,300 mile horseback ride to Bellingham, WA in an effort to raise money for, and awareness about Crohn’s disease. We’ll be riding through dozens of cities and towns (full itinerary on our website), playing music and talking to people along the way. Our hope is to reach 3 million people through local news outlets, the internet and social media, and by word-of-mouth. We are partnering with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and donating the money we raise to them for research to find a cure.
The best and most effective way to spread awareness about Crohn’s is to talk about it, help people understand what these diseases are. I used to be self conscious about my Crohn’s, thinking that no one understood what I was going through, so I refused to talk about it. But the more I opened up, I realized most of those I talked to either had Crohn’s (or something similar) or knew someone with it.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone but I never would have realized that if I hadn’t bridged that gap. You have the power to make a positive impact in the lives of countless patients; all you have to do is tell your story. And believe me—there are plenty of people here who support you.
Follow Nick and Jack’s story on their website/blog, CowboysVsCrohns.com. You can also support them by donating, sharing their story around social or local media, and to keep talking about the cause and educating others about Crohn’s. Please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help.