Stacey Rothberg was a sophomore at the University of Arizona in 2000 when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic and painful disease of the large intestine in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed.
Now a mother of three girls and in remission from ulcerative colitis, Rothberg will be recognized as the Volunteer of the Year on Saturday night, Jan. 23, at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s 25th annual Torch Gala.
Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is the general name for diseases that are characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. IBD affects an estimated 1.6 million Americans, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, and is especially prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews.
The onset of the disease usually occurs in children and young adults.
Since her diagnosis, Rothberg has been hospitalized several times because her symptoms became so severe.
Her doctors advised her to take medication, but Rothberg was allergic to many of the strong medications for ulcerative colitis and suffered complications, including pancreatitis and hives.
“Learning how to manage UC and finding the medication that agreed with my body was challenging,” Rothberg said. “For years I could only use prednisone because I was allergic to everything else. I had painful flare-ups during each of my three pregnancies, but during my third, my flare-up was so bad that I had to receive Remicade infusions, which is now my course of treatment every eight weeks.”
Rothberg said that while you’re in remission, sometimes you can forget what it is like to have a flare-up, which can be debilitating, but she is involved with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to help people who are still suffering.
The foundation is the largest nonprofit voluntary health agency dedicated to finding cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and to improving the quality of life of those affected.
“Having lived through UC and seeing other families go through it as well made it an easy choice to get involved with CCFA,” Rothberg said. “For years our family has participated in CCFA’s three biggest annual fundraisers: the Take Steps Walk, the Golf Classic and the Torch Gala.”
The gala is the largest fundraiser of the year for the foundation’s Georgia Chapter. The goal is to raise $400,000, with the proceeds going toward critical research to better diagnose and ultimately cure IBD. The gala includes a seated dinner, live music and dancing, a silent auction, and a raffle.
Marc Ratnowsky and Steven Goodman are co-chairing the gala. In addition to Rothberg, the honorees are Michael LeVine, Premier Physician of the Year, and Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, Corporate Citizen of the Year.
“As someone who has suffered for years with this disease, I recognize the importance of events like the CCFA gala to not only raise the much-needed funds for critical research and programs, but also to promote awareness in the community about IBD,” Rothberg said. “This event is a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and support CCFA, to find new treatments and hopefully one day a cure.”
What: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America Torch Gala
Who: Co-chairs Marc Ratnowsky and Steven Goodman
Where: Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, 3434 Peachtree Road
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23
Tickets: $300; www.torchgala.com or 404-982-0616