2024 – Awardee – Kennedy Johnson – Bountiful HS

Mar 26, 2024

A lifelong battle.

Hi, my name is Kennedy Johnson and the summer before my sophomore year of high school I was diagnosed with Crohn\’s disease. Crohn\’s disease is a chronic illness affecting the digestive tract that can cause symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. The path to receiving my official diagnosis took about a year in which my quality of life had decreased significantly. I had little to no energy for the activities I had loved and often felt confined to my bed. It was hard to eat and meet my body’s needs because of the intense abdominal pain and nausea I was experiencing. At the age of fifteen I had gone through medical tests such as MRIs, colonoscopies, stool, and blood testing. All these tests helped to show that I had inflammation in my small intestine which indicated Crohn\’s disease. From this point, I began to work with my parents and gastroenterologist to figure out what steps came next.

Unfortunately, the battle does not end after receiving the diagnosis, it’s when another one begins. I had a hard time accepting my diagnosis and felt as though I had jinxed myself. For context, my mother also has Crohn’s disease and was diagnosed a little over twenty years ago. Growing up I would see how the disease affected her life as well as her decisions. Because of this I would often ask if I too would get Crohn’s disease and would express how much I would dislike having it. Without missing a beat, she would commonly respond with “Oh I hope not sweetheart!” When I received my diagnosis, it was like my worst nightmares from when I was a kid had come true. With the help of my mom and doctors I was put on prednisone for one week with hopes of increasing my appetite and easing the pain. When the week was up, I was onto my next medication which was Humira. Humira is a drug that you administer via shot and is used to reduce pain and inflammation. My relationship with Humira is a love-hate relationship only because of my first ever experience with it. The first dosage was two shots instead of one and it took 40 minutes for me to calm down enough to let my parents administer the shot. After being on Humira for months, my inflammation in my small intestine was relatively normal except for the spot around my ileocecal valve. Unfortunately, nothing was going to work to bring down the inflammation, so we looked towards the option of surgery and that surgery changed my life. I am so incredibly grateful for the power of modern medicine and for all it has done for me.

My coping mechanisms throughout my journey consisted of my loved ones, gratitude for the moments I was in, and music. Before I had received my diagnosis, I was afraid and grew comfortable with the unknown compared to the known. Now with another perspective I am grateful for what this experience has taught me. I have learned to surround myself with good people who celebrate my successes and can be there for me when I am down. My mom, being no stranger to the disease, became my greatest resource. I have many memories of us crying in my bedroom talking things over. She helped me see the positives in life even when I was at my lowest point. My friends were kind enough to stoop down to my energy levels and would come eat lunch with me even if I hadn’t made it to school that day or they would come over and watch movies. Music helped me escape while also helping me to feel the big emotions. I know life can be tough but through the first bit of this journey, I have learned how strong I am and how amazing the world can be.

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