From Bob Sansevere of TwinCities.com
Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has learned to live and play pro football with Crohn's disease
It was the offseason, and he was losing weight. He didn't know what was wrong. It was 2004 and, even after being told he had Crohn's disease, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard wasn't sure what that entailed. He learned soon enough he was dealing with a bowel disease in which the lining of one's digestive tract becomes inflamed, causing severe diarrhea and abdominal pain.
This season, Garrard is taking part in the "In the Zone For Crohn's" program, which involves a $10,000 donation to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America for every touchdown he scores or TD pass he throws. I talked Tuesday with Garrard about living with Crohn's.
BS: How is your life affected by the disease?
DG: Right now, I'm doing great. I don't have any signs or symptoms or anything. I can pretty much lead a normal life. The medication I'm on and the surgery I had four years ago have helped keep me symptom free.
BS: How would you deal with Crohn's if it acts up during a game?
DG: It's been four years now, and I go in and get a wonderful colonoscopy every year. It's been clear every year. I don't worry about it anymore. I'm not going to let it have control over my life. If it comes back, I'll have to do something else about it.
BS: Did you ever worry the disease could keep you from playing in the NFL?
DG: When I first heard about it, I didn't know it was anything. I thought the doctor would give me some pills and I'd be done with it. I learned it was more severe. After me and my wife started researching it, and people heard I had it and started sending me information. I started to get concerned. It's not something you can play with if you deal with it on a day-to-day basis. I lost about 40 pounds. I said I want to do whatever it takes to heal myself and get the disease out of me. Having surgery and medication helped.
BS: What was involved in the surgery?
DG: They removed about a foot of my intestines. There's no cure for Crohn's. Crohn's can come back. After six months, Crohn's was coming right back. I went on a medication, Remicade, and I haven't had anything since. I've been normal.
BS: You were losing a lot of weight. Before you knew what the problem was, were you afraid you were dying?
DG: Definitely. When I lost all that weight was when I was just trying medicine to heal it. It was so far advanced. The body has disease on the inside of the intestines.
BS: Is Crohn's a disease that people need to learn not to be embarrassed about?
DG: That's why I feel the Lord has blessed me with it. I'm not afraid about it. I'm not shy about it. But a lot of people are shy about it. It's tough being in middle school and high school and having to go to the bathroom a lot or vomiting a lot. Kids are not comfortable with that. Adults are not comfortable, either. If you say cancer or AIDS, everybody knows what you're talking about. If you say Crohn's, people don't know what you're talking about. I've met a lot of kids who are dealing with it. I met a kid last week from Make-A-Wish, and he wanted to come down from New York to meet me.
BS: A little football talk: There was talk that last week's game against Tennessee was a make-or-break game for the Jaguars. You lost that game. So what does that make Sunday's game against the Vikings?
DG: We're pretty much in playoff mode right now. We've got to win every game from here on out to give ourselves a shot to go to the playoffs
BS: As you know, your assistant head coach/tight ends used to be the Vikings' coach. How is Mike Tice to work with?
DG: He's great. He really understands the game. He knows exactly what he's talking about. He's a fun guy. He's very, very helpful. He wants to help every position.
BS: What helpful advice has Mike Tice given you?
DG: Just be myself and play my game. Not try to go outside of what I normally do. He had Daunte Culpepper, a quarterback he loves to death. He always talks about him. He said Daunte would do what he could do and not try to please everybody. Just get the job done.