R-JENERATION: Teen raising awareness, funds after diagnosis of Crohn’s disease

Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease was a life-changing experience for 16-year-old Jacqueline Adams, but she has embraced it and used her experience to guide her mission of generating support and teaching the community about the disease.

When her doctor diagnosed the then-seventh-grader with Crohn’s, Adams looked to her mother, grateful that it was Crohn’s and not cancer, another possibility. Now that she finally had an answer, she wanted to start resolving the situation and pursue treatment.

Three years later, Adams continues to spread awareness about the disease.

“It’s an interesting kind of disease, because not many people know about it, but it affects so many people in the community,” she said.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Crohn’s disease, which causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, affects as many as 700,000 Americans. Adams spreads awareness most prominently through the foundation, primarily by fundraising through the half-marathons of the group’s Team Challenge. Each member of Team Challenge is asked to raise at least $2,500 for the cause; Adams’ family has raised about $45,000. She also has participated in three half-marathons, volunteering at her first and running in two.

In her first Napa to Sonoma Half-Marathon, Adams was recognized as Team Challenge’s Honored Hero because her mother had participated in a previous half-marathon. Participating in the race was an unforgettable experience, Adams said, because of the community involvement it fosters.

“You get a bunch of people that are all brought together to accomplish a goal that you would never think of,” she said. “Not everyone is a marathon runner, but they all just want to help the community.” For the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon last week , Adams planned to get her school involved by organizing a group of volunteers to set up a water table on the route.

Although she struggles daily with stomachaches and nausea, she said she tries to forget the disease exists, fueled by her optimism and strength.

“You can either dwell in the past and let it depress you, or move on with your life and learn to deal with it,” she said.

Over the years, Adams has learned how to deal with Crohn’s by finding the perfect balance between being strong and listening to her body. As a junior at The Meadows School, her academic schedule is very demanding, yet she knows that sometimes she has to take a break to take care of herself.

She also gets through with the support of her family.

“My family is super supportive,” Adams said. “They went through the emotional stages with me as well.”

Adams’ mother, Janice Adams, can sense when her daughter is not feeling well by noticing her different appearance and sleep pattern.

“She hits a wall when she just cannot muster the energy to perform her daily routine,” Janice Adams said. “Since Jacqueline is not a whiner, I know she has reached her limit when she involves me.”

Janice Adams said she believes stress management, through exercise and regular Pilates classes, is important to her daughter’s health. She also supports her daughter by allowing her to choose her meals based on the way she feels and by taking her to doctors’ appointments.

“We work together to seek out the best care, no matter where we need to travel,” Janice Adams said. “I make it clear that all options are open.”

Besides providing moral support, her father helps with fundraising for the foundation and spreads awareness through his business. Her brother gives on-the-line support by running marathons with her.

Adams has not let her diagnosis limit her from achieving her dreams.

“Crohn’s disease does not define Jacqueline,” Janice Adams said. “Jacqueline is a typical teenager who unfortunately has the disease. Jacqueline focuses on what is truly important in one’s life, and she is grateful for her family and true friends who support her.”

Through her determination and her family’s support, Adams has been instilled with the idea that she can accomplish anything.

“When Jacqueline was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, as parents, we maintained that she could grow up and be anything she wants to be,” Janice Adams said. “Crohn’s disease has never been, nor will ever be, an excuse for not reaching for the stars and making dreams come true.”

Although she had once wanted to become a lawyer, Adams now plans to pursue a career in business, partly because of her summer job with the executive support staff at her father’s firm.

“I can imagine myself running a business one day, and I hope I can get there,” she said.

At The Meadows School, Adams has participated in many law-based activities. Mock Trial, a mixture of the real and fantasy legal world, lets her and her friends come together and think through interesting cases. Her involvement in the Clark County Bar Association’s Trial by Peers program allows Adams to not only pursue an experience in court, but also to keep in touch with her community.

Involvement in Trial by Peers and Mock Trial made Adams realize that law is not something she wants to do for the rest of her life.

“Law has lots of shades of gray and it is just something that is not meant for me,” she said. “A criminal justice system can never be perfect, but in a business you can strive for perfection.”

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