The Greater Boston Take Steps Walk is Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to noon in North Point Park, 6 Museum Way, Cambridge.
The family-festival features a wide variety of activities, food and music, with all proceeds raised at the event supporting the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's mission to find a cure for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Colleen Marfione, director of the walk, says 3.1 million Americans are affected by the diseases.
"It's just one of those topics that, because of the symptoms of the disease, it's more of a taboo topic," she said. "I find that, given my role with the foundation and how I openly talk about it, it kind of brings more people out, so to speak."
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease is not a general topic of discussion among most people, whether or not the diseases affects them or someone they know. And still there are others who are not familiar with the conditions at all. They inflammatory diseases of the bowel and can be diagnosed in patients at any age, though most commonly between the ages of 15 and 35. Both Crohn's and colitis fall under the umbrella term "inflammatory bowel disease."
"I was diagnosed with Crohn's's disease about 10 years ago," Marfione says. "I'm pretty much in remission right now. But when I was first diagnosed, I was pretty sick with IBD. It took me a decent amount of time to find out which medicines would work for my body."
While these diseases are umbrellaed under IBDs, there are differences between Crohn's's and colitis. Ulcerative colitis only affects the inner lining of the colon, while Crohn's disease affects all layers of the intestine and can happen in both the small intestine and the colon.
There may be no known cause or cure for these IBDs, but there are plenty of effective treatments to help control them.
"There are a bunch of different surgeries that people can have to try to fix it," Marfione says. "But it's only a temporary fix."
Indeed, certain medications and surgeries can manage the symptoms of IBD. Furthermore, specific changes to diet can have a positive effect on patients during severe flare-ups; symptoms can be reduced, and lost nutrients can be replaced.
The Crohn's's and Colitis Foundation hopes the Take Steps Walk will actively raise money to fund research for more solid treatments than those.
And one day, Marfione knows, they will find a cure.
"The work that we are doing is really great and really important," Marfione says. "I honestly feel that, within the next 20 years — and this is my own personal vision — we're going to find some sort of breakthrough with this disease. I can just feel the energy. I feel like we're on the cusp of something big."
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