You can’t know what it’s like to have Crohn’s disease until you’ve lived with it, watched a loved one live with it - or both. The disease causes the inflammation of the digestive tract, resulting in intense cramping, diarrhea, fatigue, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and malnutrition. Crohn’s can be debilitating, severely impacting a person’s quality of life, casting a shadow over each day. And Mary Cincinnato knows just how trying it can be, from her own diagnosis and her daughter’s.
Mary was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1980. In 1986, when her symptoms were at their very worst, she was referred to Dr. Zane Cohen, Director of the Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases (ZCC) and a colorectal surgeon. Dr. Cohen determined the best treatment for Mary would be a permanent colostomy, a surgery that creates an opening in the large intestine. “Dr. Cohen took care of me at a time when my Crohn’s disease was impossible to manage. He saved my life,” says Mary.
The ZCC has also played an important role in Mary’s daughter’s life, Melissarose, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 16. “There were several times I didn’t think she was going to make it, the pain was so excruciating,” Mary says. Thanks to Dr. Mark Silverberg, Gastroenterologist at the ZCC, they were able to get her daughter’s symptoms under control. But Crohn’s is a life-long disease, and both women have spent years in treatment at Mount Sinai Hospital managing their pain.
It was one night on vacation, during a particularly challenging time in her personal life, that Mary had a realization: “So many people live in pain from Crohn’s disease, but Melissarose was smiling and pain free for the first time in a long time. I thought ‘How can I keep her smiling? How can I help other people living with this? I am going to do it!’ and that’s how Our Wings to Fight got started.”
While building a fundraising event from the ground-up is no small feat, Mary is a person of action and persistence. In 2013, after months of dedication and planning, the first Our Wings to Fight gala came to life. Now, the event is in its tenth year and shows no signs of slowing down. The event includes everything you’d want from a great night out: dinner, drinks, live entertainment, and of course learning about the impact of supporting this key area of care. “It’s a lot of work, and a big commitment for our committee members. We’re hoping to reach new donors who understand the importance of research, and the importance of giving people back their lives,” says Mary. To date, Our Wings to Fight has raised $110,000 in support of Chron’s and Colitis research.
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