Therapies give man chance at normal life

Sam Copeland is making plans for a trip to South America after completing an engineering degree.

Special to National Post 4 minute read November 30, 2016

Finding the right treatments for Crohn’s has allowed Sam Copeland to enjoy living life again.

Sam Copeland is already making plans for a trip to South America after completing the last three semesters of his engineering degree. Many students enjoy travelling after graduating from university and before settling into a regular work routine. For Copeland, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s more than 11 years ago, a lengthy trip is more than a desire to see something of the world. It is a major undertaking as well as an adventure.

“I’ve never travelled for longer than a week before,” says the University of British Columbia (UBC) student. “And then, I have only ever been on short vacations with my family.”

This time, he expects to be away longer. He is limiting his time away to fit around his need for a treatment.

“Crohn’s has been part of me for a while, but I try not to let it stop me doing what I want to do,” says Copeland. “Sometimes, it’s a little hard. I’ve certainly seen a couple more doctors than the average 21-year-old and my condition has varied quite a bit over the years. I’ve gone from extremely healthy to extremely unhealthy. I’ve been in a state of going to hospital every week, really having to watch my diet, taking all sorts of medications and feeling pretty awful to getting to the point of feeling normal.”

Even the decision to attend UBC — rather than stay closer to his Toronto home and his family — was huge, he says. “It was hard to move halfway across the country but I didn’t want to let the disease slow me down. My parents have always been very supportive and they were willing to bring me out to Vancouver the Easter weekend of my Grade 12 year to visit the city and the campus. I fell in love with both right away.”

“I was very impressed with my mom,” he adds. “She never tried to stop me from moving out here and I know she would come out and take care of me if anything happened. She knows I’m a converted Westerner now.”

Copeland recalls his symptoms first appearing when he was in elementary school. “I had stomach pains and all sorts of issues the summer and fall I went into Grade 5. In October 2005, I then visited a gastroenterologist. She ordered tests and, on the 14th — a date that’s firmly stuck in my memory — I was diagnosed.”

Over the next two years, he was hospitalized several times and had to miss several weeks of school until his condition was stabilized. “They tried all sorts of different medications before I was put on the treatment plan,” he says. “It wasn’t approved for kids then. I finally got it and have been on it ever since. It has really helped me.”

But, he adds, after much discussion between himself and his doctor, “I am actually currently in the process of switching drugs. Some lousy MRI results in July finally made us take the plunge.”

He continues, “Emotionally, it’s not fun. It was disappointing that the treatment was not still working as we had hoped. More than anything, it’s scary not knowing if this new treatment is going to work or not.”

“The disease can change over time and is very complex,” says Eric Thomson, Manager, Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations, for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “Patients might go through multiple treatment options to get to a state of remission.” There are many options in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. All treatments have benefits and risks, some of which can be serious, and can vary by individual. If you are living with Crohn’s disease, talk to your doctor about treatment that might be right for you.

This story was produced by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of a research based pharmaceutical company.

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