Crohn’s Disease Won’t Slow High School Athlete

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EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. -- Inflammation can cause all kinds of issues in the body, including problems with the digestive tract.

A doctor at Geisinger Medical Center calls Crohn's disease very, very common and wanted us to meet a talented young man who isn't letting Crohn's stop him.

Royce Frazier is 17 and a standout high school baseball player from Monroe County.

He's also a star basketball player for Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg.

"Basketball is a whole different element. You have to have heart to be on the court. You don't let anything set you back," he said.

It was during a basketball practice when he was in fifth grade when he first noticed severe stomach pain.

Doctors say he also wasn't growing normally.

"I was immediately worried," said Royce's mother Louise Frazier.

Louise Frazier explains her mother was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when Louise was a teenager, which led to major surgery and a stay in the ICU.

So when Royce was diagnosed with the same thing, she was concerned.

"That really alarmed me to hear Crohn's. That's the only thing I could think of was that my son was headed for the worst."

That's a common assumption, according to pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Martin Maksimak because it used to be true.

"When you look at older adults who have had Crohn's disease, often you have complicated histories, multiple hospitalizations, maybe surgeries. They've suffered a lot of problems," Dr. Maksimak said.

Dr. Maksimak explains Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Royce doesn't think his friends know what he goes through.

"I think they think it's a joke! They call it a bathroom problem. But when you go into the details, they're like, 'I feel bad for you. I'm sorry.'"

Royce is being treated with a therapy known as a biologic. Some are self-administered shots, others are IV treatments done in the office. It treats the inflammation in his system.

And it's working. He says he feels great.

He'll be playing baseball for Moravian College this fall.

"You don't let Crohn's define you. You define yourself with yourself, not Crohn's," Royce said.

Dr. Maksimak says Crohn's disease is so common he is seeing one to two new patients with it every week. He says to talk with your own doctor about what therapies might be out there if you are affected.

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