Crohn’s Disease in Revere, Mass.

An old friend from Revere came over last night, and somewhere in the conversation the subject turned to Crohn’s Disease and why so many of our old friends have it.

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I’ve had the disease since the 1970s, and my struggles with it are well documented in this blog. But my friend noted how many of our friends from the Point of Pines, Oak Island and elsewhere have taken bad turns with their health in recent years, and several have developed my disease.

I won’t name names for privacy’s sake, but besides me, we counted three other cases. Could it be something in the water? my friend wondered aloud. After all, a huge General Electric plant sits just across the water in Lynn. There’s also a trash-burning incinerator across the Pines River on Lynn Marsh Road.

Could those industrial sites be responsible?

Who knows? I’ve never seen any studies on the matter, so it would be impossible to trace all the illness to those places.

I do know that when we were kids, before the Deer Island water treatment plan was built, the water of every coastal town in the Boston area was polluted with a putrid mix of bacteria. We all swam in that water as kids, and who knows what the long-term effects of that were.

I have another theory: Doctors simply know a lot more about Crohn’s Disease today than they did back then.

When I was first diagnosed with it in 1978, very little was known or understood about the disease. I endured very long hospital stays and severe dietary restrictions that I don’t really see imposed on people today. People still end up having to take these measures, but it’s not as commonplace. Drugs have improved. The understanding of what makes the disease tick has improved.

Maybe that understanding has simply led to more cases being found and diagnosed.

Of course, it’s all speculation at this point.

I’m just glad my case of the disease is in check, and I hope some of the fellow sufferers are doing better with theirs.

I heard another theory from another friend a couple weeks ago, that Revere had a curse hanging over it that shot down a lot of people from our generation. Besides the Crohn’s Disease, there were multiple suicides and drug addictions that ended in death.

If you asked me that about six years ago, I’d have bought the theory straight away. Today I tend to doubt it.

It was a sad and unfortunate period, but it wasn’t a curse. We all had our share of childhood happiness in Revere in between the bad stuff. And I know now what I didn’t get back then: That we weren’t meant to live soft lives devoid of pain and struggle. These things are tossed in our path to mold us into what we can only hope to be: good people. It doesn’t always work out that way, of course. But let’s face it: Has life ever been fair?

I recently wrote about the time the Brenners nearly left Revere. There’s no question that for a time, I hated that city and would have done anything to get out.

But I think I would have developed the Crohn’s Disease wherever I lived. Bad things and good things would have happened wherever I lived.

Why?

Because that’s life.

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