Alan's story

In his own words, Alan shares his experience of Crohn's disease. Crohn's can run in families - both Alan, 67 and his son, Mark, 35, have the disease. Alan describes how his son has inspired him to cope with it.

My son was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when he was four years old and he has lived with the condition ever since. When I started getting symptoms a few years ago in my mid 60s I thought it was just my body getting older. But the symptoms started to get worse - I had terrible stomach cramps and diarrhoeaWhen bowel evacuation happens more often than usual, or where the faeces are abnormally liquid.Symptoms and signs

Finally I decided to go and see my doctor. The first visit was fruitless, the doctor told me it was probably a viral or bacterial infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. and would clear up on its own. The second visit was no better and I was still in the dark. The third time I went to a different doctor and he referred me to a specialist at a hospital.

I don't blame the doctors for not diagnosing me earlier. Crohn's is a complex condition, notoriously hard to spot

The specialist used a colonoscope to look up my rectum and an endoscope to look down my throat. They discovered I had a large number of polyps in the large bowel and they were concerned that I might have cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. They took a biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. and told me to prepare myself for bad news.

For fourteen days I waited for the test results believing that I had terminal cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. I was convinced that I was on the brink of death. When they told me that I had Crohn's disease not cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. I was so relieved - in those few seconds I was given my life back. I was told I had an incurable disease but it wasn't going to kill me - I could live with that. Tests and diagnosis

I don't blame the doctors for not diagnosing me earlier. Crohn's is a complex condition, notoriously hard to spot. The doctors who dealt with me did their best and I appreciate that. I am not looking for a quick fix - I know from experience that there are none.

I have witnessed my son live with the disease for over three decades. His condition is far worse than mine. When he was a child my wife would cook meal after meal just trying to find something he could eat. I remember holding him in my arms - he was just skin and bones.

He got through it and has lived with years of different medications and operations. He has had a large portion of his small intestineThe section of gut, or gastrointestinal tract, from the stomach to the anus. removed and has to make regular visits to the specialist. But he has faced his illness with great stoicism and got on with his life as normally as he could. Two months ago his wife gave birth to a baby boy - which has given us all so much joy. When I feel low I look at my son and he inspires me.

I was told I had an incurable disease but it wasn't going to kill me - I could live with that

When I was first diagnosed my specialist put me on steroids. Although they were effective in relieving the symptoms of Crohn's, I started to develop arthritisInflammation of one or more joints of the body. so I decided to come off them. I weaned myself off slowly and now control my symptoms with dietary measures alone.

Symptoms flare up from time to time but I can cope. I don't drink any alcohol and I stay away from spicy foods or anything that might make it flare up. I don't let myself get anxious about my condition - worry just makes the symptoms worse. Living with Crohn's disease.

Twenty-three years ago my wife and I set up a local charity called ‘The Crohnies' which raises money for Crohn's disease research. Of course I would like scientists to find a cure so that sufferers like my son and me can live without the pain of Crohn's. But until that happens it is important just to get on and live your life as best you can and be thankful for what you have.