Tucson, Take Steps to Find a Cure!
The Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps Walk is one of CCFA’s largest events committed to finding cures for digestive diseases. Our walks offer an incredible day for family, friends and the community to come together in celebration of all their hard work and dedication to our mission.
Our community consists of patients, loved ones, friends and supporters that empower and inspire each other to fight these diseases. Each year we connect with our communities as we fundraise for cures and celebrate our hard work together in supporting our patients.
To date, Take Steps has raised more than $60 million to fund mission-critical research and patient support programs. More than 80 cents of each dollar raised goes directly to funding this mission. Find a walk in your local community and join thousands of others Taking Steps for cures.
2016 Honored Hero: Richard Gremel
My name is Richard Gremel and I have been living with Crohn’s disease for 14 years. I was 17 when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, and at the time I didn’t know much about it or how it would change my life. Over the next several years, I lived with chronic pain which was constantly there, but would flare up after I ate and would cause me to go to my knees in pain or make me sick. It also caused me to have a lack of energy and increased fatigue. But I thought everything I was feeling was just something I had to deal with and live like for the rest of my life. Over the years, I took a variety of medications including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and IV infusions.
It wasn’t until 2013, when my Crohn’s took a turn for the worse. My disease had become unmanageable and after several attempts to get it under control, my gastroenterologist suggested I have my appendix removed. However, the week I was scheduled to have it removed, I ended up going to the hospital for an intestinal blockage. Little did I know, this hospital stay was going to be my first of many over the next year and a half. I did have my intestine removed a month later and three weeks after, I found myself back at the hospital with an infection and another intestinal blockage. Over the next few months I would spend over 90 days in the hospital. After several trips in and out of the hospital, and enough CT scans to cause me to glow in the dark, I was visited by a surgeon who decided I needed to have a section of my intestine removed. Her reasoning was because the scar tissue from the chronic inflammation had caused my intestine to twist and become like a knot. I went into surgery and laparoscopically had my gall bladder and about 8 inches of my intestine removed by two separate surgeons at the same time. However, I had several complications during the recovery and ended up forming a small hole in my intestine, which caused my bowels to leak into my gut and brought on a life threatening emergency surgery. Later we learned I was within hours of dying if I had not had the surgery. During the surgery, the surgeon decided the best course of action would be to affix me with an ileostomy.
Living with an ileostomy was a life changing experience. I felt ashamed and tried to keep it a secret and hide it from others. Over time, I began to heal and become healthier. Also, I was pain free. Living with the ileostomy caused me to change my opinion of living with Crohn’s. I began to see my disease not as something I just have to live with, but something I can control and beat. Seven months after having my ileostomy, I went into my seventh surgery, and had my ileostomy reversed. Since then, I’ve been working hard to manage my Crohn’s and am happy to say that I have gone nearly two years pain free and without medication.
Last year, I took part in my first Take Steps walk in Tucson. It was an eye opening experience because I was able to see how Crohn’s and colitis has affected others like me. It is great to see others fighting just like me. Overall, I have learned that Crohn’s is a life changing, debilitating disease which affects the lives of many and that I am not alone in my battle. I could not have survived my battle with Crohn’s without the love and support of my students, friends, and family. It is because of them that I fought so hard to survive and will continue to fight Crohn’s. I now live by the motto “Life Takes Guts”, because it reminds me of what it took to survive and how hard we all must work to help those battling Crohn’s and colitis find relief.