Keyaan Vegdani, a 16-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., has written about his diagnosis and personal experiences with Crohn's disease in hopes of helping other children living with the chronic illness in Canada.
In My Crohn's Bucket, which Vegdani also illustrated, he breaks down what the disease is and what it's like to have it.
"[I'm] making sure that kids that just got diagnosed with Crohn's disease don't go through too much pain," Vegdani said.
"They're already going through physical pain and I don't want them to go through too much emotional pain."
What inspired the book?
Vegdani was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in February, after months of uncertainty about his symptoms. On some days, he couldn't get out of bed. He had also missed two weeks of school.
"It was quite a scary time. We were trying to figure out what was going on. He was in all of this pain. I kind of sometimes felt helpless," said his mom, Tasnim Vegdani.
Crohn's is a lifelong chronic auto-immune disease that inflames the intestines. Signs and symptoms can include abdominal pain and cramping, severe diarrhea, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, weight loss and a loss of appetite.
"At the beginning I was really like ... why is it me that has to go through this? What did I do to deserve this?" said the younger Vegdani.
But he says once he came to terms with his diagnosis, he realized that many others who have the same condition may be living in silence, or were unaware of the disease.
"I thought ok maybe I'll change the narrative about what people expect Crohn's disease patients to have," Vegdani said.
In the book, Vegdani writes about the auto-immune disease in a simplified way. He says he uses the bucket as a metaphor to describe how everyone experiences Crohn's differently.
"You can have a large bucket, squiggly bucket, and Crohn's disease [like a bucket] is different for every person."
Vegdani is one of more than 7,000 young people under the age of 18 living with Crohn's or colitis, according to Crohn's and Colitis Canada.
The organization says the number of children diagnosed with the condition has increased by more than 50 per cent in the last 10 years, and that an estimated 300,000 Canadians live with Crohn's or colitis.
Vegdani says he hopes opening up about his journey and writing the book will help support research and raise awareness around the disease he feels is unknown to many.
"[Others who have it] may feel isolated and alone. But I want them to feel I've had it too. I'm with you," he said.
"You can read this book and feel like other people are within the same situation as you."
All proceeds from Vegdani's book sales will be donated to Crohn's and Colitis Canada at the end of September.