David Garrard, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, has recently begun appearing in a television commercial for Centocor. Centocor is a medication used to treat Crohn's disease, the chronic digestive disorder from which yours truly (among others) suffers. In the commercial, a smiling Garrard is seen on a bright, sunny day tossing the pigskin on the gridiron with his teammates. In a voiceover, he informs us that Crohn's disease has not stopped his pursuit of living his dream as a professional athlete. The commercial directs us to websites for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, as well as for Centocor.
As a Crohnie, I have very mixed feelings about this commercial. On the one hand, it is certainly encouraging that Garrard can continue to play ball competitively with Crohn's. I maintain a MySpace profile dedicated to meeting Crohnies and discussing our shared experiences, and I frequently do the same on WeAreCrohns.org (a social networking website dedicated to Crohn's and colitis patients). What Garrard does is shine a beacon of hope for all of us. I mean, there was never any danger of me going pro, but others out there who have that dream will certainly be encouraged to believe they can still realize it.
On the other hand, the single most frustrating part of having Crohn's disease is the lack of understanding about it. Treatment options are quite limited, because medical science does not currently know enough about what causes Crohn's to know what to do about it. The general public's knowledge about Crohn's is practically nonexistant. I fear that Joe Six Pack's entire understanding of Crohn's will be like his understanding of most things--entirely informed by television. He will get the idea that Crohn's disease is as easily treated as, say, "restless leg syndrome," and that those of us who aren't playing ball are whiners.
I think Garrard's message is well-intentioned, and is powerful for Crohnies. I also think it has the potential to really complicate matters for the rest of us as we try to connect with a normal, healthy lifestyle. It's hard enough for many of us to find teachers and bosses who tolerate our condition and its impact on our reliability to be somewhere on time, to stay the duration and to be productive the entire time. It won't get any easier now that their perception of Crohn's is that it's quickly and easily controlled by a pill.