In 2006, Alexander Noyes was on tour with one of the hottest pop bands in the country, the Jonas Brothers. At just 20 years old, he was playing drums in front of thousands of fans. But Noyes found that on some nights, it was an effort just to get up on stage.
"There were a couple of times where I'd be throwing up minutes before the show," Noyes, now 24, remembers. "I'd go through the motions, then, as quick as I could I'd get off stage and get back to trying to get myself better."
Noyes had been diagnosed with Crohn's disease when he was 18 and a freshman at Wagner College in New York. At the time, he didn't think his condition was a big deal.
"I think some part of you is in denial at that point, especially at that age. You kind of have a feeling of invincibility," he says. "I've talked to other people who have Crohn's disease ... they go through that period of time when they think that they're still bigger than the disease."
Noyes threw out the pamphlets his doctor had given him, along with his medication.
Then he went on tour with the Jonas Brothers, and Noyes discovered that he wasn't bigger than his disease.
After a year-and-a-half of hectic days and long nights on the road, he was feeling sick all the time. He went back to his doctor, who told him that his health had gone downhill and his Crohn's had progressed. "I had gone through so many flare-ups that the scar tissue in my small intestine was so thick, there were sections of my intestine where food could not pass through," he says.
In December 2007, Noyes had surgery to treat his Crohn's. Since then, he has gotten a lot more serious about taking care of his condition, and he's feeling much better as a result.
Noyes is now an advocate for Crohn's disease, sharing what he's learned on his road back to good health. WebMD asked Noyes, and two Crohn's specialists, to offer their tips on how to avoid common mistakes and stay flare-free.
See Specialists for Crohn's
Crohn's is a complicated disease and the treatments are always evolving. So it's best to be seen by an experienced gastroenterologist.
"The care of a patient with inflammatory bowel disease now requires an increasing degree of specialization," says Joshua Korzenik, MD, director of the Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It's important to go to somebody who really knows your disease."
Your treatment doesn't end with your GI doctor. It should involve a team of specialists, which can include pathologists, radiologists, and nutritionists.
Stick With Your Treatment Plan for Crohn's
Treating Crohn's isn't a one-time deal. It's a long-term strategy. Even if you're feeling better, don't stop taking your medication without your doctor's advice.