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Kadens Unite In Disease Fight

Teen advocate nominated

Young Adult Honored Hero

When Jessica Kaden was 11 years old, she began feeling extreme stomach pain. Given family history, her mother thought Jessica suffered from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). But doctors dismissed the theory.   

Today, the 16-year-old is battling Crohn’s Disease, an Inflammatory Bowel Disease that was not diagnosed until her 13th birthday. She has recently become an advocate for research and awareness of her disease The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America  (CCFA) discovered Jessica’s plight and embraced the enthusiastic manner in which she has been handling her situation. This upbeat approach has carried over into the high school student’s recent involvement in the CCFA Team Challenge.

Because the Syosset resident is still not healthy enough to participate, her father, Steve Kaden, is running the fund-raising half-marathon. But that’s not to say the younger Kaden doesn’t aspire to be able to run for this cause in the future.

“I’d love to participate but at this time I’m not at that point,” Jessica explained. “It’s an amazing experience- the training and working with everyone and then the actual experience is amazing. To run with people who have the same disease or a have a family member with the disease-its really a bonding experience.”

The Team Challenge is a faction of the CCFA that trains to participate in half marathons around the country to raise disease awareness and funds for research. The Kaden family have their sights set on the Team Challenge event in Napa Valley, CA this coming July.

The CCFA Long Island Chapter nominated Jessica as its 2013 Young Adult Honored Hero. Her proud father is participating in the CCFA Team Challenge in honor of his daughter. He began the training sessions the first week of March and will prepare through June. Dave and Loretta McGovern, Olympic caliber runners, coach the participants to take on the 13.1-mile-challenge. Loretta McGovern is affected by colitis, so the couple identifies with the cause.

While only the Kaden patriarch will race, it has become a family affair. In order to participate, they are required to reach a certain fundraising goal. The Kadens hope to raise $7,500 in time for the race. Through social media and family support they are chipping away at their goal.

Despite their active participation as of late, the family is still relatively new to the world of IBD.

When Jessica was 13, she was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic IBD of the gastrointestinal tract and is unique to each affected by it.

“Jessie has good days and bad days, but even the good days she’s always pushing through pain,” said her mom, Laurie Kaden. After three years, her daughter has gotten progressively worse and thus has not yet attained a state of remission.

Jessica has a 19-year-old sister and 22-year-old brother. Her condition has impacted the family’s lifestyle, but they strive to maintain normalcy. The Kadens live by the family matriarch’s philosophy: “We can’t give into the pain. We acknowledge the pain if she doesn’t feel good, but we are not going to let the disease control our family and keep us from doing things and making memories and having experiences.”

As a junior in high school, Jessica does her best to keep up with her schoolwork as well as maintain a social life. The Syosset School District has cooperated with the teen since her diagnosis. This includes allowing Kaden to take medical leave for the numerous procedures and surgeries that she has endured.

She remains friends with those at school but has also found solace in her CCFA teen support group. Kaden attends the CCFA Camp Oasis each summer.

“I try to teach them to be role models, and show them that even though you have the disease you can grow up and be a normal kid,” Jessica said.

As advocates of disease education, the Kaden family has taken on the responsibility of spreading awareness. Hoping for a cure, the family will continue to cope with the daily struggles of Crohn’s disease and look forward to the Napa Valley run for a cure this summer.

To help the Kaden’s reach their fundraising goal, send donations to the CCFA Long Island Chapter, 585 Stewart Ave. Suite 304, Garden City, NY, 11530 Phone: 516-222.5530 Be sure to include Jessica Kaden’s name in the documentation.