By Kametra Nickerson-Loud
It was summer 2008 and Taylor Eastep and his family were on vacation in San Antonio when he suddenly fell ill.
His skin turned pale. He began to have headaches and abdominal pains. He couldn’t focus.
Taylor’s mother, Nicole Eastep, thought it seemed strange that his body was freezing cold even though he was outside in the mid-July heat.
She had noticed his weight loss in prior months but thought it was just puberty.
“I just thought, ‘Oh well, he’s changing a little,’” she said.
Suddenly, it was apparent Taylor was dealing with a bigger issue.
Nicole said she was never worried.
After returning from vacation, he saw a nurse practitioner because his pediatrician was unavailable.
“The nurse said she had never seen anything like this,” Nicole said. “She ran some tests and saw a few things that looked funny. She thought he was anemic.”
He was given a prescription, sent home and instructed to follow-up in one week.
A week later, his symptoms were getting worse.
At only 12 years old, Taylor didn’t quite understand what was happening, but he knew there was a problem with his health.
“I told my mom we need to go see another doctor,” he said. “You could see my bones. My veins were bloated, I so was weak.”
He was referred to an oncologist who diagnosed discrepancies with Taylor’s white blood cells count and found he was also bleeding internally. He advised the family that a digestive issue could be causing the symptoms.
That was only the beginning. Taylor’s next visit was to a gastroenterologists, who concluded he had Crohn’s disease.
The doctor told his mother part of his intestines were affected by the disease.
After hearing the news, Taylor said he was terrified and feared he wouldn’t recover.
His mother was also frightened and even felt guilty about the diagnosis. She had never heard of Crohn’s.
“I began to blame myself and ask, “Did I do something wrong? What could I have done to prevent this?” she said.
Finally, she realized it was a problem they must deal with.
“I’m a huge advocate of learning and researching things,” she said. “He was a child. It was my job as his parent to take a stand, get the facts and do what has to be done.”
His family believed that surgery was too radical. It would be the last resort if nothing else worked.
They decided to take a more conservative approach and started Taylor on a course of treatments.
He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine and steroids to see how his body would react.
Taylor gradually recovered.
Four years later he has progressed into a healthy 16–year-old.
Today he is enrolled at Eastfield as a dual-credit student.
The middle child of three is home-schooled along with his siblings, a choice his parents made before his diagnosis.
Taylor’s grandmother, Carol Creel, said he was very thin and had dark circles around his eyes during his sickness, but now she sees a remarkable change in him.
“He has gained weight …He looks healthy. His skin looks healthy,” she said.
She also witnessed the change in his personality as he assisted her at a recent health fair where she sold medical products.
“Everyone was surprised how outgoing he was and said he should be a salesman,” she said. “It was very wonderful to see.”
His hobbies include playing the piano, video games and watching superhero movies.
Researching modes of transportation such as cruise ships is another favorite activity.
He dreams of owning his own cruise line similar to Carnival one day, and Creel said he knows everything about the ship world.
“He is very, very dedicated, and he will make something of himself,” she said.
Creek said she believes the medication has boosted Taylor’s confidence and allowed him to blossom.
Taylor said he wants to educate people about Crohn’s disease and how it does not hinder him from enjoying his life.
He is still able to have fun and engage in all sorts of activities.
His mother said he used to be an introvert, but now he has become quite active.
He volunteers at his church with the children’s ministry and loves listening to Christian music. He also enjoys reading. His favorite book is “The Hunger Games.”
Taylor said his diet hasn’t been affected much by the disease.
The only foods he can’t eat are popcorn and chocolate, which are difficult to digest.
Taylor said eating at least six small meals per day is healthier for him because he can maintain his weight. This diet helps his Crohn’s stay in remission.
Although he has not chosen a major, Taylor plans to transfer to Texas A&M-Galveston after graduation.
This summer he will attend a Crohn’s camp with friends dealing with the disease in Meridian, Texas.
There will be five days of fun with volunteers from Children’s Medical Center Clinic.
There will be a talent show, water sports, volleyball, and crafting.
Taylor said he will always remember his time of pain because it made him thankful for his entire family, and also brought him closer to God.
He knows his future will not be easy.
But throughout his experience, he hopes he will be able help those in need.
“I will always remember this song in life: What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” he said.