“This is the day my life will be overturned forever,” Enumclaw High senior Tyler Carlson wrote in a class paper in October.
It was spring when the Hornet football and baseball letter winner and his family learned the cramping and intense stomach pain he’d been dealing with for weeks was Crohn’s disease.
Carlson calls it a life-changing experience that has brought out the best in him.He doesn’t take a day or person in his life for granted – he’s living every day to its fullest.
“It’s not only a physical disease,” he said. “It’s a high mental disease so I try to take the good things out of life.
“The biggest thing that makes it flair up is stress,” Carlson said. “I realized it, and every morning I thank God that I’m still here and kicking and try to remain positive through my life.”
Crohn’s disease is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract that most commonly affects the small intestine or colon.
It is estimated as many as 1.4 million Americans have Inflammatory Bowel Disease – with that number evenly split between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease may occur in people of all ages, but it is primarily a disease of adolescents and young adults, affecting mainly those between 15 and 35. There isn’t usually a definitive cause attached to it.
“I think he appreciates things more,” said his mother Jill Carlson. “It’s night and day how he’s feeling now compared to last spring.
“It was spring and for Carlson that means baseball season.For about three months, he lost his appetite and started to lose weight. He was in and out of school, the doctor’s office and the hospital with diarrhea, cramping and bleeding.
“I’d lay on the couch with a heating pad,” he said. “It turns on when it wants to. I never see it coming.
“At first, Jill and Ted Carlson thought it was a lingering flu.”He never got well,” Jill said. “He was still trying to play baseball,” she said. Poor weather that spring was a blessing in disguise.
Carlson said he knew it was bad when he was in Hornets’ dugout at Osborne Field with a heating pad.
“We thought he just wasn’t feeling good,” EHS baseball coach Eric Fiedler said. “He’s a tough kid. He wanted to pass it off as just a stomach ache.
“Fiedler said Carlson hits with tremendous power, has a cannon for an arm and shows great base speed. He earned all-league outfield honors despite the absences.
“He never wanted to stop. He’s not that kind of kid,” Fiedler said.
Finally, there was a diagnosis.”We were shocked,” Jill said. As word spread, she discovered family members who have Crohn’s and found assistant EHS baseball coach Kyle Tate also was living with it. He became a great source of support.
Carlson said he went through the stages of shock and the questions, “Why Me?”
He talked with his parents and then the baseball team.”It was emotional with the team meeting; all the guys were really supportive,” Carlson said. “My family’s been very supportive.
“The news, although devastating at first, got better over time.”Every case is different,” Carlson said. “Mine is not so severe.
“Through luck and good blessings, the Carlsons were able to hook up with one of the top doctors for Crohn’s in the area. “We wanted to make sure we got a good handle on it,” Jill said. Tyler can keep it in check with medication, down from nine pills a day to four, and diet.
The first two to three months, he three different medications, nine pills a day.
“It shouldn’t slow me down from my normal lifestyle,” he said.
“The doctor told him, ‘You will have Crohn’s for the rest of your life and you will have to take meds for the rest of your life,'” Jill said. In a season that almost wasn’t, Carlson played his final high school football game Oct. 28 against the Peninsula Seahawks.
Baseball is his bread and butter. He signed a letter of intent with Washington State University Wednesday and plans to put his name in the June draft. He’s had tryouts with the Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks and others, and was invited to play fall ball, but picked his senior season on the gridiron instead.
“I decided to play football,” he said. “I’ve always loved playing football. It’s my last year, my senior year, I really wanted to play.
“I’ll never have another year to play football, this was the last time to take it all in,” he said.
He adjusted to the switch from wide receiver and defensive back to starting quarterback.
“It hasn’t been as successful as we’d hoped it would be,” Carlson said of the Hornets’ 1-7 season. “It’s not always about the wins and losses. It’s about getting out there and having fun and competing.
“I try to take in the moment, go in and play the game for the fun of it.”
With the football season over, it’s back to the diamond. He plans to swing a bat some this winter, turn out with the Hornets in the spring and head to WSU, where the staff has began lining up a support team for their latest recruit.
“So far his body is doing great,” Jill said.