Reaching New Heights with Crohn’s Disease
Patient Perspective Canadian Olympian Alyx Treasure talks Tokyo 2020 and the mental hurdles of Crohn's disease.
With Rio 2016 firmly behind her, Canadian high jumper Alyx Treasure turns her gaze to the future, Tokyo 2020. It’s a long road to Olympic glory, one made more complicated by her ongoing battle with Crohn’s disease.
Mediaplanet: How old were you when you first noticed something may have been off with your digestion?
Alyx Treasure: I remember struggling with my health most of my life but never got a clear answer as to what exactly was wrong with me. The first day of high school is when issues with my digestion started to really affect my life. I remember calling my mom telling her that I didn’t think I could walk to school that morning because I was so sick. She told me it was just nerves and that it was normal, which was probably the reason for it since stress is my biggest trigger, but this was way before I was diagnosed and awareness of Crohn’s disease and IBD was established. That’s how it went until I was diagnosed, all my symptoms and issues were always explained away by outside factors: the food I ate, stress, and nerves.
MP: What was the largest mental hurdle you had to overcome after you were diagnosed with Crohn’s?
AT: The acceptance that I could not will the disease away. Being an athlete has always given me the false belief that with enough determination you can overcome any battle. But when it comes to an issue with the way your body is made, you can’t just mentally decide to be better. That took me many years to accept, and my stubbornness ended up putting me in the hospital more times than I can count.
MP: Who do you lean on the most when having a setback and how do they help?
AT: Honestly, Crohn’s and IBD is a lonely disease. My family has been amazing, and my mother has always been my rock through it all but at the end of the day it’s not something that people can fully understand. However, one of the greatest things about being involved in advocacy with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is being able to have open and honest conversations with strangers and even family members who are hiding their symptoms. I had a little girl come up to me at an event I hosted and her mom told me about how she was dealing with her own issues with IBD.
To be able to have an honest conversation with someone so young about the realities of the disease and to hopefully be able to give a suggestion or a resource to make her path to understanding her body and disease easier makes any of my own setbacks seem inconsequential.
MP: What advice would you give to young athletes who have just been diagnosed with Crohn’s?
AT: Figure out what you love and find a way to make it work. You are always stronger than you think and there is always an alternative way to do what you love. Finding your own way within the complexities of Crohn’s can be an entertaining journey. One thing I will have once I retire are some hilarious stories!
MP: How are you preparing for Tokyo 2020 and is it a different mentality from previous world class meets?
AT: A lot of things have changed for me recently and it’s a whole new plan leading into 2020 than it was for 2016. I have moved back to Canada and am working closer with my Canadian Federation to ensure that my health is no longer a limiting factor. In 2016, I was in my last semester of university in the United States: I jumped Olympic standard, turned 24, and got my diploma all within a week. It was the craziest year of my life. This time around I’m focused on consistency and preparedness on a level that only experience has allowed me to have.