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Commencement is a milestone in victory over Crohn’s Disease

By : Eric Coker

Leslie Shrager’s winning attitude in a battle against Crohn’s Disease has not only made her a role model for others with the ailment, but a successful student at Binghamton University, as well.

“I try to do everything I want to do despite it, versus letting it hold me back in any way,” she said.

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation or swelling of the digestive tract. It affects about 500,000 people in the United States.

Shrager was diagnosed with the disease at age 6. Her mother Lynda was diagnosed with breast cancer later the same day.

“I think my mom and I worked off each other and are the kind of people who would rather fix something else than deal with our own problems,” the 22-year-old from Bethlehem, N.Y., said. “So in a way, it helps both of us to get through everything.”

At age 9, Shrager was able to reach out to other afflicted children as youth ambassador for the Upstate New York Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

“I thought it was cool: Talking in front of people was something I liked to do,” she said. “It gave me a chance to talk with other kids going through the same thing and help them, whether it was fears of a new medication or side effects or having to leave the classroom to go to the bathroom.”

Shrager’s health is now “remarkably better.” She had surgery five years ago and started a medication called Remicade that Shrager said got her through the college years. (“Thank you to the Remicade people,” she said.)

Her mother is also doing better. She has been in remission for 11 years and works in the health industry, as an author and a columnist for the Times-Union in Albany.

Shrager’s work with children has continued at the University’s Institute for Child Development. She became a psychology major after taking a class in the subject during her freshman year. Shrager started at the ICD a year later and has spent five semesters helping children with autism through her focus in applied behavior analysis.

In 2008, Shrager helped coordinate the Discovery Program’s “Get in the Zone,” a stress management program for students. Shrager also took part in interventions, assessed data and presented results to faculty, staff and others, said Scott Bennett, assistant director of the Discovery Program.

“Leslie was invaluable to moving the project forward and it continues to thrive as a result of the tremendous impact she made,” Bennett said.

Shrager has remained busy outside the classroom by serving on the Senior Class Council and as a dancer and choreographer for the Children’s Dance Theatre. Her sister, Samantha, is finishing her freshman year at Binghamton.

“Being involved is the only lifestyle I know,” she said. “In high school, I had dance, shows and religion every day after school. Here, I couldn’t just go to school and then go home. I work better under pressure.”

Shrager hopes to attend graduate school for nursing and continue to help children.

“I’d like to work with kids with chronic illnesses,” she said. “I always hated when my doctors said they could relate, but they couldn’t.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08