Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska employee (BCBSNE) Darcy Swope and her son, Riley, know the impact inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can have on a person’s life.

Riley’s IBD symptoms, including persistent diarrhea and weight loss, began in high school. Concerned, Darcy took him to the doctor.

“They thought it was a flu virus, and he’d get over it,” Darcy said. “He’d have problems and have to go to the bathroom a lot, be okay, then have it come up again.”

Riley’s symptoms continued into his freshman year of college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). The Swopes searched for an answer, but receiving a diagnoses took time and multiple trips to the doctor, Darcy said.

A blood test eventually led to an appointment with a GI doctor and a colonoscopy. Immediately following the procedure, the doctor diagnosed Riley with ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a medically incurable disease that causes inflammation and sores in a person’s digestive tract, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease can sometimes lead to life threatening complications.

“At 19, that’s a very scary diagnosis,” Darcy said. “Riley thought his life was over. He thought he couldn’t continue to study civil engineering.”

Joining a support group facilitated through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and hearing about the real-world experiences of other IBD patients changed Riley’s perspective and helped him understand that with the right treatment, remission is possible.

“The support group initially helped me more than I probably realized,” Riley said. “Half the battle for me has been mental and having people to talk to really relives the stresses associated with IBD.”

Riley, now 23, is in remission and works as a civil engineer. On Saturday, June 22, he and Darcy gave back to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation together at Take Steps, the foundation’s annual fundraiser.

Darcy led BCBSNE’s corporate team at the event, which raises funds to support IBD research, patient services, advocacy and professional education.

“I love remaining positive, and I love events like Take Steps,” Riley said. “It reminds me we are in really good hands, and we have support from our community to one day find cures for IBD.”

A BCBSNE grant partially funds Omaha Take Steps.

For more stories like this one, visit the community engagement tab.