CROHN’S DISEASE

A chronic inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease affects the digestive tract. It is more commonly found at the end of the small intestine, and symptoms can include, among other things, abdominal pain and cramping, unexplained weight loss, or frequent diarrhea.

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Histology image of a low-power Chron’s disease skip lesion.
*Image credit: Laura Lamps, MD, Director, Gastrointestinal Pathology, Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan

ANTHONY LORIA’S STORY

Growing up in a family with ten kids meant that Anthony Loria didn’t get a whole lot of privacy. Even so, when he started experiencing diarrhea, fatigue, and intense abdominal pain when he was 12 years old, he hid his symptoms from his siblings, parents, and doctors.

“Being a young kid,” Anthony says, “I was scared and embarrassed over the taboo symptoms.”

Through adolescence he learned to deal with the cyclic nature of the illness: days and weeks of symptoms followed by a few days or weeks without pain. The symptoms would always return, however. While his parents encouraged him to socialize, Anthony never wanted to be too far from a bathroom or his bedroom.

“I stayed in my room,” he recalls. “I’d bury myself in studying and I mostly kept to myself. It took all my energy to simply go to school, let alone muster up the energy to keep up with my peers. I had stabbing stomach pains and nausea daily along with several other less-than-pleasant symptoms.”

Eventually his life became nothing but school, studying, and hiding his symptoms. As graduation neared, he knew he’d have to tell his parents about what was happening to him if he hoped to make it in college. That’s when he learned he had Crohn’s disease.

Before his diagnosis, he was just trying to survive; afterward, Anthony started living life. After corticosteroid therapy and surgery effectively controlled his disease, he went to George Mason University, where he became a scholarship athlete, enjoyed social activities, and decided to go to medical school.

When he was first diagnosed, Anthony researched his condition, including the significance of laboratory test results. He realized essentially all the data that guides his therapy and allows him to live his life—such as biopsies, routine blood work, and blood transfusions—is a direct result of the work laboratory professionals and pathologists do. And his appreciation for the laboratory grew even more.

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“Every pathologist I have dealt with cares deeply for patients, is dedicated to patient care…and interacting with these people on a personal level has helped me get a better insight into their role as ‘the doctor’s doctor,” Anthony says. “I wish patients could understand the level of precision and complexity that happens routinely in busy clinical labs or hear a group of pathologists work through a difficult case under the microscope.”

Today, Anthony is pursuing his goal of being a colorectal surgeon, and keeps his own journey in mind when considering his future patients—he wants to be there for them as his care team has been for him. And in life, Anthony greatly appreciates the world-class support system of family, friends, physicians, and teachers, that has helped him along the way.

“Your diagnosis is a small portion of your life that at times demands significant attention,” he notes. “But you are many things—a parent, a friend, a student, a co-worker—before you are reduced to just a diagnosis.”

When Anthony finally spoke up about the severe symptoms he was experiencing, he was able to get a diagnosis and get back to living a normal life.