Hundreds of people came together at the Denver Zoo on Saturday night for the annual Take Steps against Crohn's & Colitis; the walk raises money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
Denver's walk is typically one of the largest in the country; the largest in 2008, the second largest in 2009 with 1,800 people in attendance.
Teams who register for the walk are encouraged to come up with creative names; such as the Swollen Colons, the John Nose and Team Wipeout wrote their name on a roll of toilet paper. It's a way to poke fun of the symptoms which can be difficult to live with.
Rob Guthrie is from Denver who has lived with Crohn's disease for nearly two-thirds of his life.
"I was diagnosed about 13 years after I started having symptoms. I dealt with the pain for quite a long time," Guthrie explained.
The symptoms of IBD, the collective name for Crohn's and Colitis, include persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, bloody stool, fever and weight loss, joint, skin or eye irritation.
From a glance Guthrie looks to be the epitome of health. The former Naval officer says it comes from over compensating.
"Because for so many years I looked so unhealthy and was so skinny," Guthrie said. "So I over compensate to make myself look healthy and I'm fortunate I haven't had a flare-up for a while."
Those who live with auto-immune disorders, like IBD, go through periods of flare-up and remission. A flare-up is a sudden, and sometimes severe, onset of symptoms. It can be brought on by any number of factors such as stress.
Another way Colorado is leading the charge is through research. Dr. Sean Colgan, is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado hospital. He was hired by the hospital four years ago to lead a new research effort, because he said up until that point not much had been done.
"Denver is a big catch area for Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis," Colgan explained. "The truth is medical centers that specialize in this disease, the closest to the west is Los Angeles and the closest to the east is Chicago. So there is a big area here and a fantastic opportunity to bring research and new therapies to the Denver area."
"If you just look at the geographical area there are, I think at last count, there are 25 million people in the border states," Colgan said. "Of those 25 million people, when you look at the incidents of IBD being 1 in 300, it's about 80,000 patients. So from that perspective you can imagine, there are significant opportunities."
This could explain why the Denver walk has such a high attendance.
"It means a lot," Guthrie said. "Those who live with Crohn's and Colitis don't really raise their hand and tell people. A lot of their symptoms are things they do not exactly put on a billboard. So to know when you may be suffering in silence that there is a flood of people who are there to support you, it really means a lot."
You can learn more about CCFA through the Rocky Mountain chapter's website at http://www.ccfa.org/chapters/rockymountain/
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