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My Journey As A Collegiate Athlete with Crohn’s Disease

By Sydney Large

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during my junior year of high school. Making a transition from high school to college was difficult. However, during my time at the University of Minnesota I was able to walk on to a D1 Rowing program as a coxswain and jump start my career working in sports. Stress has been my biggest trigger since being diagnosed, which provided a lot of challenges throughout college. Here are some thing I learned throughout my journey:

1. Be communicative & educate

I had a fast-paced college schedule between juggling practice, class, and work. I had to pay extra attention to my diet and my medications because I didn’t want Crohn’s to slow me down. However, on some days it caught up to me.

I learned how to communicate about my disease to my athletic trainer, teammates, professors and supervisors at work. Symptoms of IBD can come on suddenly and I found it important to educate people around me about IBD since college is a stressful time and symptoms can come on without notice and can impact focus, energy level and activities. My campus' disability resource center helped by writing a letter every semester to share with my professors about how Crohn’s Disease can impact me in the classroom and allowed flexibility in case I missed a class due to a flare up.

By communicating and educating the people around me about Crohn’s Disease and how it impacted me, it became easier to communicate how I was truly feeling when I was feeling unwell.

2. Find the Positives

Crohn’s Disease can be overwhelming and uncertain which can lead to a lot of anxieties. It’s challenging to maintain a positive attitude while struggling from a flare or when Crohn’s symptoms are impacting day-to-day activities. Something that has helped me is trying to find a positive in the simple things. For example, if I’m having a hard practice I remind myself that all my teammates are supporting each other through it. Or if I’m dreading the walk to class, at least I’m getting my steps in and participating in a healthy activity. This simple mind shift makes a big difference and has helped me decrease my stress while in a flare and in daily life.

Being a young adult with Crohn’s can be challenging because most people don’t understand the disease. I’ve gotten a lot of comments like “oh you’re too young to have such a serious disease” and “oh you’re so young you must be full of energy.” I’ve found it important to remind myself that it’s my journey and there are going to be good and bad days and even if I can’t control my IBD, I can control my attitude.

3. Keep Dreaming Big

My dream has always been to work in sports and throughout college I was able to work for the University of Minnesota Athletic Department, multiple Super Bowls, the Final Four, and several other sports organizations. I was thankful to be in a program that provided a lot of opportunities. Continuing to reach for my goals has helped me throughout the lows of Crohn’s Disease and has allowed me to be even more grateful for opportunities and accomplishments.

Holding onto my goals and values has allowed me to push myself in ways I never thought possible. It’s important to remember that people achieve their goals in various ways and everyone’s process varies. IBD can provide hurdles that take time to overcome, but no goal is ever too big.

About Sydney Large

My name is Sydney Large and I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S in Sports Management. I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease 4 1/2 years ago while I was still in high school. I've always been actively involved with athletics and walked on the University of Minnesota Rowing team. I have also worked in sports throughout college in events, social media and marketing. I will be starting my post-graduate career soon in sports social media. Follow Sydney on Twitter and Instagram @sydlarge18.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.


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