Crohn's Disease and Olympic Dreams‘The pain that comes with this is agonizing… and very hard to describe to anyone who isn’t going through it’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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With the next Olympic games only 2 years away, champion kickboxer Caradh O’Donovan has her work cut out for her.  She told Sean O’Rourke that after winning every medal she ever set her sights on in kickboxing, there’s only one left: an Olympic medal.  As kickboxing isn’t an official sport of the Olympics, Caradh has taken on the remarkable challenge of switching to karate to compete against the best of the best, but this isn’t the only difficulty facing her.  Caradh suffers from Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause crippling pain.  She says,

“The pain that comes with this is agonizing.  It’s stomach pain and joint pain.  It can be unbearable at times and very hard to describe to anyone who isn’t going through it…  It definitely did impact on performances and looking back that there was kind of flare-ups at the time that hindered my performances…  There were times where I just couldn’t physically compete as well and I had to deal with the results of that.”

Sean was also joined in studio by gastroenterologist Professor Colm O’Morain to explain more about the condition that in various forms affects 40,000 people in Ireland.

“The tell-tale symptoms would be… diarrhoea and this crampy abdominal pain.  The diarrhoea particularly occurring at night would make me suspicious that something like inflammatory bowel disease is going on… and then if they go to see a doctor they may well have some blood tests that suggest inflammation… that would increase the suspicion that something more should be done to make the diagnosis.” 

The disease predominantly affects those in the western world and while no cure or cause is known, it can be managed through diet, stress management and medication.  Caradh says,

“It has been a big challenge…  I’ve tried to just physically get it under control and work with the right kind of support systems to get it managed.  Ultimately I don’t kind of live with that thought in the back of my head that this is going to show up.  I just try and focus on staying well and not think about it too much and not let it complete takeover.”

Despite the condition, Caradh is focused on her goal of standing on that Olympic podium with a medal around her neck.

“I wouldn’t be going for it really unless I had a belief that I was going to go and medal at this, so yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

See www.iscc.ie for more information and click here to listen to Today with Sean O’Rourke

© The Listener 2018

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