Last week Mark Millar, writer for Fantastic Four and numerous other comics (including the recent movie fodder Wanted, ended up in the hospital with a 103 fever. The culprit? Azathioprine. It’s an immunity suppresent. So why would you want to suppress your immune system?

To quote an article on the Sunday Mail website about Millar’s hospitalisation:

Doctors finally discovered Mark was suffering a severe reaction to his medication for Crohn’s, which causes agonising inflammation of the digestive tract.

From the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) website:

Crohn’s disease is a chronic (ongoing) disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although it can involve any area of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or colon.

The disease is named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn. In 1932, Dr. Crohn and two colleagues, Dr. Leon Ginzburg and Dr. Gordon D. Oppenheimer, published a landmark paper describing the features of what is known today as Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s and a related disease, ulcerative colitis, are the two main disease categories that belong to a larger group of illnesses called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Because the symptoms of these two illnesses are so similar, it is sometimes difficult to establish the diagnosis definitively. In fact, approximately 10 percent of colitis cases are unable to be pinpointed as either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease and are called indeterminate colitis.

Both illnesses do have one strong feature in common. They are marked by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. The immune system is composed of various cells and proteins. Normally, these protect the body from infection. In people with Crohn’s disease, however, the immune system reacts inappropriately. Researchers believe that the immune system mistakes microbes, such as bacteria that is normally found in the intestines, for foreign or invading substances, and launches an attack. In the process, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation. These cells then generate harmful products that ultimately lead to ulcerations and bowel injury. When this happens, the patient experiences the symptoms of IBD.

In other words, your immune system becomes the enemy. Or Mark’s. Or mine. Last year, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. The first time I heard of the disease was when I was in the hospital with major gas in my abodminal area (in fact it was so bad that they couldn’t get a proper scan), when one of the other patients in the ER room was told she was having a flare-up of Crohn’s. A few days later, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s.

And I just realised today while thinking up this post that I was hit with a bit of real world foreshadowing. 🙂

There are a number a different kinds of medication given to treat Crohn’s. In the hospital I was put on an anti-inflammatory called Pentasa. However, this made me even more bloated and in pain than when I came in, plus made me nauseous. I’m told it was a rather strong reaction. So I was put on azathioprine, but went off of it when I returned to the hospital because inflammationhad been hiding in another loop in my small intestine. The end result was I missed pretty much all of spring, without work or fun. The closest thing I had to exploring was Second Life, although I did discover comic blogs, which is partly responsible for this very blog.

I haven’t returned to the immunosuppressant because my job leaves me too exposed to sick people, and (as my current cold betrays) I get sick easy. (Sinus problems do not help.) This is probably stupid on my part, but I was planning to restart them once this cold ends because I did have a potential flair a few months ago. Then I see Mr. Millar’s reaction, and my paranoia kicks in.

However, if you happen to be diagnosed with Crohn’s you can still have a normal life. True, you end up going to the bathroom more often (and believe me, I don’t enjoy spending a half hour on the potty), and there’s the dehydration thing and a few other concerns, but the only thing keeping me from doing any clubbing once I was back to relatively normal was being broke, tired, or sick (sinuses, remember).

And look at Mark Millar. He spends a part of the interview promoting all the new projects he has coming up, and that’s while being in the hospital with a huge fever. The trick is to not let it get you down. Sure, I may never get to eat popcorn at the movies again (candy just isn’t the same), or I might if I keep a good enough eye on myself. I never drank alcohol or ate spicy foods anyway, so I won’t miss that. And if you go to the CCFA site I linked to above, there are a list of other things you can’t have or shouldn’t have enough of. However, one can still have a normal life, even if there are a few roadbumps.

The main reason for this post is to bring awareness to Crohn’s disease. Hopefully others will take the opportunity to learn what it is Mark’s suffering from, and how they can deal with having or knowing someone who has the disease. Like anything, this is only an obstacle to overcome, but it can be overcome. It’s just a royal pain in the butt (no pun intended).

And hopefully Mr. Millar is back to work soon.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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