Amy Toten knows the difficulties of living with Crohn’s and Colitis, two diseases that are debilitating, yet unseen and unmentionable.
Though she doesn’t suffer from the conditions herself, Toten, a Farmington resident has watched her grandmother and boyfriend struggle with them daily and now is working to raise money and raise awareness.
“The goal is to try to take away that stigmatism. You really can’t talk about it but it affects millions of people,” Toten said.
Crohn’s disease and colitis are both autoimmune, inflammatory bowel diseases that can cause pain, bleeding, malnutrition, joint pain and skin problems, according to the National Institute of Health. Colitis also causes ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon, according to the National Institute of Health. Both are generally diagnosed in people ages 15 to 30 and tend to run in families. There is no cure for either, but often life-altering surgery is required.
Toten’s grandmother ended up with colon cancer.
“It was very hard for my grandmother to have a job,” Toten explained. “Whether you are in a meeting, on a phone call or driving in your car [people with Crohn’s or colitis] may have to rush to a bathroom at any time … I just want the community to support [people with Crohn’s or colitis] and realize there are a lot of people in our area that suffer from it."
To that end, Toten joined Team Challenge, an organization that helps volunteers train to run half-marathons to raise funds for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America and to help educate people in their communities.
Toten’s team is running the Rock'n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon on Dec. 2. Toten has been training for 15 weeks with people from all over Connecticut and beyond to prepare for the event.
Though the race is across the country, Toten is finding ways to get local people and organizations involved in the fight against Crohn’s sand colitis.
She organized a meet and greet event with the Connecticut Whale to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. The event will be at Spruce Home & Garden, 973 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. Adults and children can come meet members of the Connecticut Whale and get their autograph and enter to win raffle prizes donated by a variety of local businesses.
“I reached out to Spruce, Downtown Yoga in Hartford, to the Whale and everybody jumped on the opportunity,” Toten said.
She was surprised that most people she approached were familiar with the diseases and had their own stories.
“Some of the managers were like, ‘oh yeah, my mom has Crohn’s,’ one of the hockey players said, ‘yes, my manager has Crohn’s,’ so everybody knew somebody who was affected by it,” she said.