Retired NHL player Fernando Pisani was living his dream as a professional hockey player when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. His instincts were to wait until the symptoms had passed, but when they kept reoccurring, he knew he had to speak up. Mediaplanet spoke with Pisani about his life with colitis and raising awareness for others who may be suffering in silence.
You often hear more about those effected with Crohn’s as opposed to colitis. What’s the main difference between the two diseases?
The main difference between Crohn’s and colitis is that Crohn’s affects the entire intestinal system while Colitis affects the lower intestine.
How did being diagnosed with colitis affect your life and career?
It put my whole career on hold. I lost over 55 pounds and I couldn’t eat or drink without having to worry about whether or not I’d be able to keep it in. I even got to a point where I was afraid to eat and drink. I went from being in the best shape of my life to not being able to walk down a hallway without stopping for a break. I was terrified that I was never going to play the game I loved after I’d worked so hard to get to the level every kid dreams of: the NHL.
People often shy away from speaking up about Crohn’s and colitis. At what point did you determine you needed the help?
I thought that this would go away on its own and looking back I waited too long before seeking help. I decided to get help when I became run down and wasn’t able to hold down any food or water — I knew something wasn’t right with me and I began to lose a lot of blood. This is the mistake a lot of people make with this disease.
How did you find the resources to navigate colitis?
I was very fortunate to have incredible care from my specialist, Dr. Fedorak. He was able to get me back on track with the right medication and a plan that worked well for me.
What message would you like to share for those unaware of colitis?
Colitis isn’t a glamorous disease. People don’t enjoy talking about it but it affects a lot of people around the world and many of them wait too long before going to see their doctor. My advice is not to wait and to see your doctor right away.