By Trevor Suffield
Nov. 13, 2008
Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Obby Khan is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound protector whose job is to make life easier for his quarterback.
But for Khan, who lives in Osborne Village, the last few years off the field have been anything but easy.
His father passed away last year, just as Khan himself was recovering from two surgeries due to ulcerative colitis that saw his large intestine completely removed and a new one fashioned out of part of his small intestine.
The subsequent recovery kept him out of the Bombers’ lineup for the latter part of last season and the early part of this year.
The five year CFL veteran was originally diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel disease in 2004 when he was playing football for Simon Fraser University, but kept it as a secret from most people.
At one time, he took as many as 50 pills a day in order to treat the colitis, and was ready to walk away from the game, but now because of the surgery is both pain, and pill, free.
Khan, 28, says there is a stigma attached to IBD because not many people know what it is. In fact, he didn’t even know what it was until he was diagnosed.
“I always dealt with the pain, the cramps, the bleeding, but I just didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself and I was embarrassed to talk about it,” said Khan.
“When it got to the point that I could no longer manage it, when I could no longer hide it, I just came out and it just seemed natural for me to talk about it.”
It’s obvious that he is having no problem talking about it now, as he will be the guest speaker when the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada holds its “Living Well with Inflammatory Bowel Disease” education symposium at the Victoria Inn on Nov. 15.
Crohn’s and Colitis are chronic intestinal disorders which cause abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue and diarrhea. Crohn’s affects the entire intestinal tract, while Colitis only affects the small intestine and lower bowel.
According to the CCFC, nearly 200,000 Canadians suffer from this disease, and most are diagnosed before the age of 30.
The CCFC was launched in 1974 and has invested nearly $50 million in research grants over the years.
One of those receiving CCFC funding is Dr. Charles Bernstein, a professor of medicine and director of the University of Manitoba’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinical and Research Centre, who is giving the keynote address.
Bernstein is the leading gastroenterologist researcher in the world, and receives funding from the CCFC, which in turn funds the most research in Canada per capita of any foundation in the world for IBD research.
The symposium will also feature guest speakers with topics on the different ways to cope with IBD, from yoga to nutrition.
According to Shari Haydaman, CCFC regional director for Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Khan’s story about living with IBD is one that teenage sufferers can relate to.
“Sometimes the outlook is pretty bleak, and they think that they’re not going to go on and have a professional life even behind a desk, never mind on the playing field,” said Haydaman.
“I think it was to his advantage, and other sufferers, that he was getting out there and saying we need employers to support it, as well as see what happens during the diagnosis, the suffering, the surgeries and then the recuperation,” said Haydaman. “He’s just phenomenal.”
For Khan, spreading the word and gaining acceptance for Crohn’s and Colitis sufferers is something that his father instilled in him before he died. It continues to motivate him to this day.
“My dad said you’re so tough, you’ve dealt with so much in your life, and you can deal with this, and you’ll be better off when it’s done. You’ll be healthy, and you’ll be able to help hundreds of people,” Khan recalled.
“Without a doubt it’s come true.”
For more information on the Nov. 15 symposium visit www.ccfc.ca, or call 231-2115.