Kathleen Baker: A Story of Inspiration & Determination

It was a great week in the IBD community. 19-year-old Kathleen Baker, a competitive swimmer, came in second place in the 100m backstroke at 58.75 seconds in the women’s Olympics. Just 0.30 seconds behind Katinka Housszu from Hungary.


Kathleen was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 13-years-old in the middle of her career as a competitive swimmer.

Her illness just took away from the pure joy of her success,” her father, Norris Baker, says about the disease. “The hardest part was (…) knowing she has a chronic illness and dealing with that.

Kathleen, like many patients, didn’t understand what it meant to live with Inflammatory Bowel Disease after she was first diagnosed. She didn’t know what her life was going to be like. Despite the pain and the trial and error of finding a treatment to work for her, Kathleen was determined to be a beacon of hope for others struggling with IBD.

I’ve definitely been through my fair share of adversity.” Kathleen said.

During her diagnosis, Kathleen lost more than 10 pounds and developed whooping cough. The cough was so severe and violent, that she broke several ribs. In the beginning, Kathleen was on about a dozen pills a day. When that failed, Kathleen was put on an intravenous TNF blocker (most likely Remicade). Finally, Kathleen was put on biweekly injections (possibly Humira) to manage her symptoms.

Kathleen has come a long way in her swimming career and fought long and hard against Crohn’s Disease to get to the Olympics and on Monday Night she swam her hardest.

I couldn’t even put into words how happy I am.” Kathleen said of getting the silver medal, “and how grateful for the amount of support I have here from the teammates and coaches along the way.

When asked about her struggle, she says, “I think it really helps me appreciate the sport even more, knowing that it can be taken away from me. I love swimming more than anything in the world, and to be able to swim in the Olympics – it’s an incredible feeling. I hope I inspired a lot of people…

She has certainly inspired me and I am so proud that she has chosen to use her disease to change her and challenge her for the better.

While I know not everyone has a success story like Kathleen’s, and not everyone's disease is the same, I believe that it is important that she’s using her story to help raise awareness and encourage people to go after their dreams.

I prayed about this a lot.” She said, “I think this is something I’ve been put here to do. I’ve never given up on my dreams, and I hope other people are the same.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it until my dying day… IBD has one goal: to destroy you. It will fight you. It will knock you down. But don’t let it keep you down. Fight back. I’m oddly reminded of a quote from Captain America… and while his quote was about fighting for America, I believe we can apply it to our own adversities with chronic illness, so I’ll leave it here:

When the […] whole world [or disease in this case] tell[s] you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world, ‘No, you move.’”

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