My name is Cassie Lapera. At age 14, just after my freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. The official
declaration of Crohn’s Disease vs. ulcerative colitis is still up in the air. Since my diagnosis, I have changed a lot.

I was being treated for acne with a strong antibiotic when I started having symptoms that were increasingly frightening. I saw my pediatrician who
immediately referred me to Children’s Hospital in DC. There, I was also diagnosed with a liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. It seemed like I couldn’t win. When the first few treatment options for IBD failed, I started to lose hope that I could ever beat this disease.

Treatment after treatment prescribed by a doctor after doctor at hospital after hospital, I still couldn’t achieve remission. Twenty-six pills per day and giving myself shots on a regular basis still couldn’t tame the stubborn case of IBD that plagued me. I graduated high school in 2010 but not without missing my entire last week of senior year because my mom and I flew half-way across the country to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to get one more “second” opinion. With one more failure in treatment, surgery was the only option left.

After my fall semester of freshman year, I had almost my entire colon removed. This removed most of the disease but the portion that remained was
still affected. The surgery resulted in an ileostomy that I kept for three and a half years before my remaining disease finally healed on its own and I was reversed. Today, I get infusions every 4 weeks with the newest IBD drug on the market in hopes to reduce the disease activity that has unfortunately returned.

Looking at me, you would never know I’m sick. All that I have to show for the years of hardship I’ve endured is the five scars on my stomach. But
inside, I’m an entirely different person (and not just because I’m now missing a few organs). I have learned a lot about myself and have developed character and empathy that I would not have if it weren’t for this trial.

A cure, to me, means that no other child or adult has to endure the embarrassing symptoms of Crohn’s or colitis in silence and in fear. A cure, to
me, means freedom to live life without worrying about where a bathroom is or what exactly is in the food they’re eating. A cure, to me, means no more crippling pain or shots or pills or procedures that make life so dreadful at times. I have hope for a cure. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) is hard at work to find that cure. In the meantime, education, awareness, and fundraising are the most crucial steps we can take toward living in a world free of the fear and pain of IBD. We must keep the FAITH, fight the FIGHT, and
PERSEVERE.