Nanaimo youth named one of Gutsiest Canadians

Nanaimo youth named one of Gutsiest Canadians by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada.

Ashtyn Lively

For two weeks in December last year, Ashtyn Lively couldn’t eat.

She had a blockage in her intestine and suffered from a high fever, lethargy and pain.

Yet she still found the motivation to attend a kid’s craft fair in Courtenay, where she lived at the time, to sell cookies and crafts and raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.  She raised $60.

The next day she was in surgery. She was rushed to the B.C. Children Hospital to have nine centimetres of her lower intestine removed due the blockage.

Ashtyn, 12, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2007 when she was eight.

“Basically it’s the body’s immune system doesn’t shut off and the sores end up bleeding, scabbing and burrowing anywhere,” said her mother Cheryl.

Despite the pain, Ashtyn goes door-to-door to raise money and awareness about Crohn’s disease. She’s raised $2,000 for the foundation due to her campaigning.

She also helped collect silent auction donations, sold homemade bookmarks and did people’s nails at a fundraising event in the Comox Valley that raised $5,000.

For her efforts, Ashtyn was named the ‘Gutsiest Citizen’ in British Columbia and the Yukon by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada for her efforts of raising money and awareness about the diseases.

She’s being honoured during the foundation’s education symposium held in Victoria on Sunday (Nov. 20). Ashtyn said she was excited to be named one of six winners across Canada recognized in November, which is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness month.

The foundation said Ashtyn is an inspiration to friends and family and even though she faces challenges at a young age, she has always maintained an incredibly positive attitude.

“We are excited to honour Ashtyn for her devotion to making a difference in the lives of others suffering from IBD,” said Ralph Finch, national vice president of the B.C. and Yukon foundation, in a press release. “It takes tremendous courage for people living with IBD to speak out and make a difference – especially people of Ashtyn’s age.”

Ashtyn enjoys making crafts reading books and taking bicycle rides, but sometimes pain and fatigue mean those activities are out of reach.

She was home-schooled for two years because she was too ill to learn in the public school system. She started attending public school this year because her condition was improving.

During flareups, she has to have a liquid diet, usually consisting of meal-replacement drinks and Jell-O.

There isn’t one specific diet people with Crohn’s can follow. Each person has to determine which foods cause problems and adjust their diet accordingly.

The family has dealt with a lot the last few years. Last year, Ashtyn’s older brother, Brandon, 15, was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

“It’s been a whirlwind the last couple of years,” said Cheryl. “We went from really active kids playing soccer and basketball and running to basically having one bedridden and another one having to drop out of gym.”

The family moved to Nanaimo in September to make trips to B.C. Children’s Hospital easier – every six to eight weeks, both Lively children go to the hospital to get intravenous drugs.

Ashtyn tries to keep positive no matter what is thrown her way.

“I think to myself that there are people in the world that have it worse than Crohn’s,” said Ashtyn. “I know that I’m not the one having the worst pain.”

Ashtyn said she wants to get more people educated about the disease because when she knocks on doors, many people had never heard of it.

Cheryl said it’s a misunderstood disease and one many people don’t feel comfortable talking about.

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There is no cure or known cause of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The diseases, often referred to as inflammatory bowel disease, affect about 200,000 Canadians and Canada has the highest rates in the world.

Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract but it is usually located in the lower part of the bowel or upper end of the colon, according to the foundation’s website.  Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and weight loss. I can cause inflammation in portions of the gut and intestinal track.

Colitis is more localized in the colon and people can experience severe and bloody diarrhea and other symptoms similar to Crohn’s disease. If medication and therapies are unsuccessful a surgeon may remove the colon and the disease will not return anywhere else in the intestinal tract.

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