I’ve talked about Mason and his battle with Crohn’s many times. This time I will let him tell you in his own words.
Timbeaux: How did you find out you had Crohn’s Disease?
Mason: My junior year of high school I was admitted into the hospital and after numerous tests and sleepless nights the doctors told me I had it.
Timbeaux: What were your first thoughts after being told?
Mason: My first thought after being diagnosed was if I was going to be able to swim anymore. I didn’t know if I was going to be physically capable of doing so or if my swimming career was over.
Timbeaux: How long were you in the hospital?
Mason: I was in the hospital for a total of eight days.
Timbeaux: What was the first thing you did when you got out?
Mason: Well the first thing I did was take a shower to get the “hospital feel” off of me. But the next day I got up at 4:00 AM and drove to practice for 4:30.
Timbeaux: How long before you went into remission?
Mason: It took my body 4 months to go into remission. I had to get a TB shot and for some reason the TB shot would not be accepted by my body. After three months it finally took and I was allowed to have treatment shortly after that.
Timbeaux: How have you had to change your eating habits?
Mason: I had to cut out a lot of my favorite foods. Including any fried foods, any foods with nuts, seeds, high in fiber, larger portions of red meat, and a couple of other things. The main thing for me is to moderate the foods I can eat. But I also learned how to eat some of my favorite foods, just changing a few things in them. Or removing something from the recipe. Sometimes it can be a hassle but not always.
Timbeaux: Has it changed your swimming any?
Mason: Physically? Only when my treatment starts to wear off. My body starts to feel the impact of Crohn’s disease then and I get extremely tired. But mentally it has changed me completely. It has given me a whole new motivation to swim and to push my body more.
Timbeaux: What is your medical regiment (doctor, medications, etc.)?
Mason: Every seven weeks I go to the hospital where they put an IV in my arm that pumps medicine into my body. I am there for about 3-4 hours each time just sitting in a chair. It gets kind of boring but it’s worth it later on down the road.
Timbeaux: How is life with Crohn’s as a college student and athlete?
Mason: Dealing with Crohn’s disease while being a student athlete is not the worst thing ever. It is hard sometimes to find enough calories when I go to eat in the cafeteria as sometimes they have things I cannot eat. But other than that it isn’t bad. I always have a backup plan or two if things don’t work out with my eating habits.
Timbeaux: What does your tattoo stand for?
Mason: My tattoo has a couple of different meanings in it. The purple ribbon around the top is the Crohn’s and Colitis ribbon. The cross symbolizes my relationship with God as He is always by my side. The reason the cross is made of nails resembles the nails that Jesus was put on the cross with. The reason why the bottom nail is going through the skin is to represent the pain that I go through, and also the pain that Jesus went through when He was on the cross.
Timbeaux: How is your support system (family, friends, doctors)?
Mason: I have a very large support system that is always helping me. When I was diagnosed, my mom and dad both learned new recipes to help with my transitioning. Even while I was in the hospital one of my closest friends (and now teammate), Andrew Knudsen, came to visit me for a whole day to keep me company. Now there are numerous friends that know what I can and can’t eat and are thoughtful when we go out to eat or we get together and cook.
Timbeaux: Do you talk about your Crohn’s to promote awareness or keep it to yourself?
Mason: I sometimes talk about my Crohn’s but I do not flaunt it. If it comes up in a topic of conversation then I will discuss it, but I do not go out of my way to tell people about it. It usually is involved in some sort of joke to be completely honest, and some of those jokes tend to be… “crappy.”
Timbeaux: How do people first react when you tell them you have Crohn’s?
Mason: Most people are shocked or confused since they do not know what Crohn’s is. The people who do know what Crohn’s disease is are normally shocked at first because it doesn’t seem like I have it. Or I don’t act like it. But the confused people then proceed to ask what it is and what it entails.
Timbeaux: How do you feel when you see other’s with Crohn’s who are not taking care of themselves?
Mason: I am not sure how I feel about this subject. Sometimes I am a little bit upset that they do not take care of themselves, but at the same time I can sometimes empathize with them. I understand that it is not easy for everyone to handle Crohn’s and live their life. But then other times I think that if they just changed a few things in their life that it would be so much better.
Timbeaux: Tell me about #ihateland and your support of CCFA.
Mason: I created #ihateland my junior year of high school after I was diagnosed. The original Instagram post was a week before I was diagnosed but it did not become official until post diagnosis. Ihateland is an idea that is slowly (very slowly) becoming a reality. The plan is to create an online website that people can come and buy clothes and other products with the ihateland logo on them. Here is the kicker: most of the proceeds then go back to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). I have been dealing with and donating to the CCFA for almost three years now.
Timbeaux: If you wanted people to know one thing about your battle with Crohn’s, what would it be?
Mason: My battle with Crohn’s has changed a lot in my life. But the most important impact it has had on me, is that it has created a stronger bond between myself and the people I love. There are numerous people in my life that have helped me and gone completely out of their way to make my life easier. These people understand my condition and are always checking in on me. And it has pulled so many great people into my life and shown me how to care for others as well.
In typical Mason fashion, he left out the parts about the pain, the fear, and the struggles he has gone through. He tends to concentrate on the parts he has control over and to make himself and others around him better.
Now if I were telling the story, it would be full of pain filled hallucinations and explosive bowel episodes with a Phoenix-like rising from the ashes overtone all set to the theme music from Rocky. But that’s just me.
Of course, you can probably see why I am raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. He never asked for this disease, but he has it. My hope is that CCFA can continue to help find treatments for Crohn’s so that in thirty years he can still look and feel like he does at twenty!