A PGA pro's battle with ulcerative colitis
By Rob Kenny
It was April 2010, and things in my life were going great. I was engaged to my dream girl, and was getting started at a brand new job, working as an assistant golf professional at a private club in Markham, Ontario. Not only that, but I was working with a great friend of mine, as well as one of the top head golf professionals in the province.
It was the perfect place for me to be at that point of my career. In my third year, I working under a great team at a great club. And on top of that, I had the opportunity to play a lot of local PGA events, which I was very excited about. Playing and competing at a high level is something I love and cherish, and I was pumped for the opportunity.
We were just getting things started at the club, setting up the pro shop and preparing for what was to be a great season. But things took a wicked turn for me in my own life. I found myself needing to go to the bathroom a lot more than normal, and experiencing quite a bit of stomach pain. I just sort of brushed it under the rug in the beginning, thinking it was nothing to worry about that it would go away on its own. Boy, was I wrong.
It continued to happen, increasing in frequency as well as in the urgency to go. When I had to go, I had to go NOW -- no waiting around what so ever. The tipping point came when I began to notice blood in my stool. I knew this was something that was not going to go away on its own. I needed to get help.
I went to the doctor, and thus began a wild series of events that just never seemed to end. There were countless doctors and tests to try to determine what was wrong and why this was happening to me. In the beginning, I was told it was a bowel disease called “Ulcerative Proctitis.” They told me it was nothing major, and a series of medication were supposed to calm everything down and get things back to normal. I had been sick for about four months, so was excited to hear the news and happy to get my life back on track.
After taking the doctor’s advice and medication I was no better -- maybe even a bit worse. I went back to the specialist and told him that there was no progress. Like me, he was concerned, and booked a colonoscopy. For anyone who has had this done, you know it is no fun at all, but at the same time it needed to be done so the doctors could see exactly what was going on. What the doctors found was worse than the original “scope” showed -- more of my colon was affected, and my doctor was confident that I had “Ulcerative Colitis.”
For those who aren't familiar with Ulcerative Colitis, it is an inflammatory bowel disease that unfortunately has no known cause, and only one cure; surgery. The symptoms are many, and include living in a bathroom (at the worst, I would have to go about 20 or more times a day). It also causes constant stomach pain, fatigue, weakness and other bad things.
Even though there was only the one cure, the doctor was nowhere near ready to make me go under the knife. He recommended a high-strength steroid (prednisone) that he thought would calm things down and ease the swelling of the colon, sending the disease into remission. There are thousands of people who have Crohns and Colitis and can live a normal life through medication and treatment, and we were hoping I would be one of them -- David Garrard, a former Jacksonville Jags QB is a well-known athlete who has Crohns.
Of course, this made things at the golf club a lot tougher. I was in so much pain and in the bathroom so often. It affected my performance in the shop and on the course. I tried my best while there, but it was not easy. I played when the pain was not as high, but my game suffered. I was only able to play in two events all year, and they were both poor outings -- a missed cut in the Ontario PGA Championship and a tough day two in our Assistants summer Championship that had me at the back of the pack.
Playing two consecutive days of tournament golf with this disease was tough, and the fatigue and pain caught up to me in the end. I knew that that was probably going to be it for me for tournaments for 2010, and that was tough to deal with. I knew I was just not healthy enough to play and compete at that level. I just wanted to put all of my energy to getting better and beating the disease. I ended up leaving the club just before the end of the season, as the pain and stress of it all was just too much for my body to handle.
It was now October, and all of these pills and medications were not doing anything for me. I felt I was getting worse and no progress was being made. I went back to the doctor and he knew at this point that the prednisone was not the answer. What I needed was a new drug treatment called Remicade. This was a new treatment for UC patients, but it had offered great results for some. The problem with this treatment is that you have to be approved through the government for it, and you have to get an insurance company to support you, as this treatment costs over $4000 per dose (it is an IV style treatment that goes directly into the blood stream.)
After a long wait and a number of phone calls, emails and paperwork, I was finally approved for the treatment. I had three appointments booked, and they had told me that this should get things into remission. Well, three treatments and more than $12,000 later, I was still not any better, and I knew the surgery was the next step. I was now a year into it and so sick and tired of being so sick and tired. I could not wait to have the surgery and be 100 percent cured of this disease. The main setback with this was the fact that I would have a colostomy bag on the outside of my stomach. It would be a major thing to get used to, but I knew I could do it. I felt it would be a piece of cake!
It was now August 2011 and almost one year since I had last played a round of golf. I remember being in the waiting room waiting to be called into the OR, and I kept thinking of all the things I was going to do when I was better. Golf was high on that list. Getting out to play and compete again was a high priority, and one I could not wait for! It took a while before that first round, but it was all worth it! I remember playing late in 2011, just one round. I was playing with my wife and in-laws at a course I knew well, and standing on that first tee was very special. After all that I had been through, all the hard times and struggles, I was back! I shot a high number that day, but the thrill of being back on the links was so special, and a round I will never forget.
I really appreciate GolfWRX allowing me the opportunity to share my story with the community here. I have left this off with a lot more to add to my story and I hope you enjoyed the read. For anyone looking for more information on the disease, I urge you to check out the websites below, and feel free to PM with any questions you may have in regards to the disease
http://www.ccfa.org/ and http://www.ccfc.ca/