The life of a rock star means nonstop travel, countless trips around the globe,
and a front seat in the public's spotlight-something Mike McCready, lead guitarist
of Pearl Jam, was uneasy about for some time before publicly coming out about his
struggle with Crohn's.
"Crohn's was very much something I'd hidden for many years," said McCready. "It
was painful, embarrassing and I was ashamed. I just wanted to deny that it was there
and, as a result, I didn't take that great care of myself."
McCready was 21 when he first felt the symptoms of Crohn's. One morning as he was
out with his bandmates, he felt something in his gut, like a bad stomachache. Suddenly,
he had to get to the bathroom. When he finally found one at a nearby hamburger stand,
there was blood, mucus and extreme pain. He was confused and scared.
"I was like, 'Whoa, something's wrong with me. I don't know what this is. Is it
something I ate?'" McCready recalled. The symptoms continued for a week. When he
finally got to a doctor, the initial diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, which later
turned out to be Crohn's.
For a while, McCready had a hard time coming to grips with his disease, which seemed
to strike randomly and always without warning.
"I always had that shame that went along with it," said McCready. "In the back of
my mind, I was always thinking that I might have an accident when I'm going out
to the movies or playing music. And it did happen all the time! So I was always
anxious and depressed and just didn't care about anything. It was such a self-defeating
way to think, but I bought into that for a while, for sure."
In later years, he met and joined with the musicians that became Pearl Jam. The
band struck gold and McCready's music career took off, but the feelings of embarrassment
and isolation remained, preventing him from speaking about his Crohn's.
This went on for a while until, with the encouragement of his wife Ashley, McCready
decided to be proactive about his disease.
Read Mike's full story in this issue of Crohn's Advocate.