STELLARTON – Luke Knock is preparing to head to college with a new attitude about his health, a sense of normalcy – and a $5,000 scholarship.
The 19-year-old Stellarton resident was one of only 10 students from across the country to receive an AbbVie IBD Scholarship, aimed at empowering Canadians living with Crohn’s and colitis.
Knock was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was barely in his teens. Always an active, social guy, he suddenly found that he was extremely fatigued and listless and was suffering from extreme abdominal pain. He had also lost some weight, which was noticeable on his already slim six-foot two-inch frame.
“I knew something was wrong,” he shrugs.
It didn’t take long to determine Knock had Crohn’s disease – the same disease his older brother had been diagnosed with just two years prior.
Knock had been a powerful athlete; basketball and soccer were his sports of choice at that time. But the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, and the pain that accompanied the disease, sidelined the athlete for an entire school year.
“I didn’t play at all in Grade 7; I missed a lot of school time in Grade 7, too.”
He says, “For a while I let the disease stop me from feeling normal. I felt left out because I couldn’t play sports or join in activities like all my friends because I was stuck either at home or in a hospital bed.”
But thanks to a positive attitude, self-motivation and a course of medication, Knock picked up the sports again in Grade 8.
“I pretty much resumed a normal life then, but still had occasional flare-ups,” he says. “Actually, I don’t remember the last time I had one,” he grins.
Today, Knock manages his disease by taking daily medication and receiving an IV drug every five weeks at a clinic. He is also avoiding triggers, like nuts, popcorn and fruit. “To be honest, I didn’t eat a lot of fruit anyway,” Knocks jokes.
Playing hockey was always Knock’s dream, but it was a sport in which he was not able to actively participate.
“I promised myself the first thing I was going to do after getting my disease under control was to play hockey. And in Grade 9, after months of pain and changing medications, I finally joined a hockey team. Learning how to skate for the first time at age 15 was a challenge but nothing could have made me happier,” he smiles.
“I finally felt like I could be normal again. I even joined the baseball team in Grade 11. We made it through the regional championships and won Provincials that year. That was an experience I’ll never forget, and I hope to create many more just like that while in college.”
The AbbVie IBD Scholarship was one Knock applied for – and received.
“We were inspired by each application and privileged to hear heartfelt stories of courage and determination from across the country,” said Mina Mawani, president and CEO, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “During the selection process it became clear that many young people are actively engaged in their communities supporting others and raising awareness. Their stories reaffirm that our mission to take Crohn’s and colitis out of the shadows is succeeding.”
Canada has one of the highest rates in the world of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – otherwise known as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – with one in 150 Canadians affected. The conditions cause inflammation of the intestinal tract and bowel resulting in ulceration, severe pain, internal bleeding and, particularly when the condition is in a flare-up, an unpredictable and urgent need to go to the washroom. Canadians are most often diagnosed between ages 15 and 30.
“This is a critical time in the development of young people and dealing with the everyday stress of school is challenging enough. When you factor in the pain and the stigma that many people living with Crohn’s and colitis feel, it can be overwhelming,” says Stéphane Lassignardie, general manager of AbbVie Canada. “The AbbVie IBD Scholarship is designed to assist students navigating post-secondary education and encourage them to pursue their studies while living with these chronic diseases.”
To continue to inspire others, each recipient is sharing their story and journey in their communities.