The athlete’s mentality of toughing out injuries or any kind of adversity is something that’s been around for ages.
The problem with such a mindset is that it can get you in trouble, as was the case with Cal Poly assistant coach Mitch Freeman earlier this summer.
Thinking that the pain he was dealing with was the result of a chronic abdominal condition, Freeman ended up having to spend ten days in the hospital and lost 21 pounds due to the ailment.
“I had severe abdominal pain,” said Freeman, who felt his first repeat flare-up in March and started seeking out a grastrointestinal specialist in San Luis Obispo shortly after. “I was going to the bathroom 12 times a day. I was severely dehydrated and wasn’t eating much but still going to the bathroom that many times.
“It just kind of spun out of control. It got really bad and my colon got severely inflamed.”
As Freeman was waiting for a doctor’s appointment to arrive, he was losing blood in his stool. His body wouldn’t allow him to swallow solid food, and Ensure liquid nutritional supplements eventually became his only form of nutrition.
Ulcerative colitis was the issue that Freeman was dealing with, and it’s an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine and colon.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America some 700,000 cases occur each year, and if not taken care of can have dire consequences.
But part of the battle for many dealing with the disease, as was the case for Freeman, is overcoming the fear of discussing some of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
“Don’t be embarrassed to talk about it and let people know because that really helps,” Freeman said. “If you’re hiding it, it can be hard to deal with the symptoms. … There’s a lot more people out there that have it that we might not know of because they’re embarrassed to talk about it because you have to go to the restroom a lot or miss days at work because of it.
“In March, I kind of just said maybe this will go away, but it’s not going to go away, it’s just there. I’ll always have this, but I think I’m on the right track.”
Freeman missed some work on the recruiting trail but was able to get to Las Vegas for a couple days last week, and he’s resumed his other duties with the Cal Poly program.
But even without the aid of a whistle or basketball, Freeman has taught the players a valuable lesson when it comes to their health.
Photo credit: Cal Poly Athletics