Kyle Hadwin didn’t know anything about Crohn’s disease when he was diagnosed at age nine.
“I hadn’t heard of it,” he said. “I even doubt my parents had.”
Now, after living with the inflammatory bowel disease for 12 years, Hadwin wants to open people’s eyes to the condition – a similar goal of the upcoming Snowbirds Fly for CHILD (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders Foundation) fundraiser coming up this month in White Rock.
“Nobody talks about it,” Hadwin told Peace Arch News last week from his room at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“People who have it don’t talk about it. I’m sure there’s probably people in your life who have it and you don’t know because no one talks about it.”
Hadwin knows all too well how devastating the disease can be after his first introduction to it in the summer of ’99.
He began having stomach cramps and lost his appetite. Over the next six months, he dropped around 60 pounds.
Hadwin – whose father is a Morgan Creek Golf and Country Club pro – was tested in hospital and diagnosed with Crohn’s in March 2000.
Other than having to take medication and visiting BC Children’s Hospital every six weeks, the condition didn’t affect Hadwin’s life much in those early years. Between the ages of nine and 13, the only difference he noticed was decreased energy.
“You just don’t have as much as everybody else, but it’s not terrible,” he said.
Four years later, Hadwin’s medication stopped working and he had his first flare-up.
“I was put on steroids, which is the aggressive treatment for it, and that took care of the flare-up in about eight weeks.”
Hadwin – who was put on a couple different medications after that – said flare-ups could occur every couple months to years. When they hit, he would miss a week or two of school until the drugs kicked in and he could resume his regular routine.
“I graduated high school without missing any extended periods of time, living a fairly normal kid’s life besides a few smaller issues,” the Abbotsford resident said. “Up until 19, I carried on with my life.”
Just before Hadwin was to attend university in the fall of 2009, he experienced complications with the disease and was forced to put school plans on hold.
Since then, he has had numerous surgeries, some to repair holes in his colon and small intestine.
At one point, he had two surgeries 14 days apart, and post-surgery complications resulted in a 94-day stay in hospital.
Hadwin said the disease weakened his colon and the walls of his intestines. Last May, he had surgery to remove his colon altogether.
He has been recovering in hospital since, and knows it won’t be his last time doing so.
“Part of the problem with surgery on your bowels is they get really irritated, so you can’t have a whole lot of surgeries right next to each other,” he said, noting he may have another in a year or so.
While putting their energy into Hadwin’s battle, he and his family have also been giving their attention to CHILD.
Hadwin said his father held a golf tournament for the foundation at Morgan Creek Golf Course a couple years ago, and is working on another one for next year.
His brother, Adam, has also been using his golf skills to support the cause.
Adam Hadwin, 23, played in the U.S. Open last month, and pledged $100 to the charity for each birdie he made. He challenged others to do the same, and – after Hadwin made 14 birdies over the course of the week – the campaign raised about $26,000.
“It exceeded my expectations,” Kyle Hadwin said.
While he is looking into other ways to fundraise, he said his main focus is still to spread awareness about Crohn’s disease and ensure that others battling the condition know they are not alone.
“As bad as you think you’ve got it, somebody else has the exact same thing.”
Scheduled for release from hospital in a couple weeks, Hadwin is now looking forward to his next chapter, which includes studying civil engineering at University of Saskatchewan in September 2012.
“(I’ll) go to school for four years, get my degree – start my life.”
Canadian Forces Snowbirds are to arrive over White Rock pier at approximately 6 p.m. on July 27 for Snowbirds Fly for CHILD.
Thousands of people are expected to watch the squadron perform an aerial show over Semiahmoo Bay.
A free outdoor movie is to follow on the beach.