Howdy! My name is Maggie Jukes, I am a 17-year-old Senior at Lake Travis High School in Lakeway, Texas. I am both honored & excited to be named the Central Texas Honored Hero! I was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the age of 14. Since that time, I have experienced many strange and sometimes awkward situations. I am proud to support Take Steps and openly share my story to help raise awareness of what exactly Crohn’s is and how you can make a difference.

As long as I can remember, I have been actively involved in extracurricular activities. At the age of ten I committed to the two sports I loved the most, soccer and swimming.  My freshman year, I played club soccer, club swimming, and joined the Lake Travis High Swim Team. My average week consisted of school, five soccer practices, and eleven swim practices!  I made the District Team, qualified for Regionals and earned my Varsity letter my first year.  Everything was going great and I loved every bit of it! I attributed my abdominal pain, endless “stomach bugs” and joint pains as fallout from a “good workout”, not mentioning the issues to anyone. Eventually, the pain increased and with a full schedule I decided to focus solely on swimming, maybe I was doing too much?  My parents encouraged the decision, as they were beginning to worry. Maybe, I could rest up, focus, and start feeling better overall on a more consistent basis. My symptoms did not respond as planned and I often found myself curled up on the couch with debilitating cramps after only a bite of dinner.

I trained harder and ate less trying to keep my mind off the pain and avoid aggravating my condition, but my swim times showed little, if any, improvement, no matter how hard I tried.  Within the next three months, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I frequented the doctor’s offices for exams, tests, scopes, and was finally hospitalized for a bowel obstruction. The scope and biopsies revealed I had ulcers in my stomach, small intestine (duodenum and ileum) and colon.  Finally, the culprit of my pain was identified, and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.  My first thought … “What in the world is Crohn’s Disease?”!

Thanks to one of the today’s miracle medications, I avoided surgery. I responded to Remicade in addition to steroids, and have been on Remicade ever since my hospitalization.  My father still tells the story of driving me home after my first infusion and asking, “Maggie, how do you feel?” and I answered, “I feel good.”  He then asked me “How long has it been since you felt like this?” I honestly did not understand at the time why he was speechless when I answered, “I don’t remember.”  My parents, teachers, and coaches have been extremely supportive and I cannot properly express my appreciation.  I withdrew from social situations and my friends during most of my freshman and sophomore year.  Now, I am able to embrace the “fun” times and share my experience with many of my friends.

It has been a bumpy road, but in the past two years, I have learned how to live with my IBD! I still swim for Austin Swim Club and Lake Travis High School.  Despite the setbacks, I have been blessed to represent my High School in Regionals again my sophomore year, State my junior year, and Junior Nationals this year with my club team.  Living with Crohn’s has actually become a passion of mine. It has inspired me to start a Health & Wellness Committee in the National Honor Society to raise awareness for IBD and be proactive with one’s health.  I look forward to returning to Camp Oasis, a summer camp for children with Crohn’s and Colitis, this year not as a camper, but a Junior Counselor.  Next year, I will move my infusions to the state of Maryland, where I will be studying Biomedical Engineering and swimming for the Lady Blue Jays of Johns Hopkins University.

You can live with and excel with IBD. This is not something to be ashamed of and I want to help grow IBD awareness in my community. I hope my story can help inspire others to join our fight for the cure!

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