Writer finds inspiration from story

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 10 years old, 2010 Champion graduate Ian Barnes deals with the fears that anyone with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) faces on a daily basis.

The fear of leaving home, where a restroom is only a few feet away and readily available. The fear of doing anything that could throw your body out of whack and perhaps take you from a remission state into a flare up. The fear of the pain.

Barnes has found a way to those fears aside. The Geneva College senior has gotten into bodybuilding, for which he has been featured in Muscle and Body multiple times for overcoming the illness and having such a healthy lifestyle. He’s topped out at 335 pounds on the bench press and can do 18 repetitions at 225. He also has curled 135 pounds on the barbell.

The history education major won’t let the fears keep him from his dreams of living an active, healthy life, hence why he’s been an inspiration to so many people already in his young life. Not everyone has conquered that fear or managed to push through it, however. I am a prime example.

At the age of 19, I was diagnosed with another IBD called ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are similar in that the body’s immune system mistakens bacteria or other healthy substances in the gastrointestinal tract as foreign or invading substances, but the main difference between the two is that Crohn’s can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, while colitis affects only the colon.

The symptoms for both diseases are also quite similar, which includes frequent and urgent need to go, cramping and abdominal pain, loss of blood, and, if severe enough, a loss of appetite, extreme weight loss and fatigue. Patients of both diseases go through periods of remission and flare ups, with very little warning as to when a flare up will occur.

The first time I experienced a flare up came toward the end of my freshman year of college, and after a four-day stint in the hospital, I managed to keep the condition under control for a while.

For the last three years, though, I’ve struggled to keep the condition in check at a crucial time in life. I spent 11 months in Germany, most of which I was confined to my living quarters because the thought of needing a restroom at an inopportune time was beyond scary. Having run a fair share of 5-kilometer races in high school, running more than two miles without fear of needing to use the bathroom seems impossible nowadays, making exercising an issue.

This is not how an active individual wants to live. However, there have been times when physical exertion hasn’t been a problem. There was the time when studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria, during spring 2009, when I was a part of a group that hiked 11 kilometers up and 11 down the Gaisberg, a large hill outside that city. Also, during Easter weekend 2012, I made a 5-mile trek from a hotel room south of the River Thames in London to Emirates Stadium in the northern London borough of Islington to go to an Arsenal-Aston Villa match (although it must be said that it was more to avoid of the cost of public transportation).

Still, these triumphs are few and far between – nowhere near what Barnes can do with his bodybuilding. His dedication to living healthy and being active is the reason the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America wants him to speak publicly and participate in the mentoring program in the near future.

Barnes said his message when he starts public speaking will be simple: “Don’t let this disease define your lifestyle. Go out and try to achieve your goals, and along the way, if you have a setback, don’t be afraid to get back up and start again on achieving your goals.”

Well, he’s already inspired one person with that message.