Fifteen-year-old Mary Teresa Comerate of Hamburg has been battling Crohn’s disease since she was in first grade. The disease, which cannot be cured, is a type of inflammatory disease (IBD) affecting the small and large intestines. It is a chronic disease characterized by remission and exacerbations requiring many medications that can be potentially dangerous if not monitored closely. The disease affects other organ systems as well. It can cause severe debilitating abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stools, anemia, arthritis, and malnutrition.
In 2016, the disease put Mary Teresa in a life-threatening situation where she had to have major surgery. The community came together to send Mary Teresa hundred of cards to cheer her up. While the surgery was a success to improve her symptoms, it wasn’t a cure. She still has to live with this disease every day and while she may look fine on the outside, she never completely feels well on the inside. But instead of letting this disease get the best of her, she’s now become an advocate for it to help others.
Mary Teresa has been chosen as the 2018 Honored Local Hero for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Western New York chapter. This outstanding honor gives Mary Teresa the opportunity to promote awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis and help others with Inflamatory Bowel Disease. And while it may be uncomfortable for some to talk about their disease, Mary Teresa isn’t afraid. She gave an extensive presentation at Children’s Hospital to resident doctors and didn’t miss a beat.
“Being the honored local hero means I’m able to be the voice of others who may not be comfortable speaking up,” said Mary Teresa. “There’s not a large awareness of Crohn’s disease or even how many types there are and I want to change that.”
As the Honored Local Hero, Mary Teresa will be supporting the annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis Walk Sept. 29 at the Bowen Road Grove shelter in Lancaster. A basket raffle will also be held at the event. Visit www.cctakesteps.org/buffalo2018 to make a tax-deductible donation in Mary Teresa’s name or join her “Crohn’s Crew” and fundraise alongside her. For more information, contact Tammy Comerate at 716-880-5467. In-kind donations to the walk and basket raffle may be coordinated through the foundation office at 585-967-0266.
To read more about Mary Teresa’s story, go to www.cctakesteps.org/buffalo2018 and scroll down to “Join the Community” and click on “Local Hero.”