One gutsy journey

Local resident and her team, This Bag Ain’t Prada, step up for others


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Raquel Feldberg with her 2013 award for fundraising

In late November 2002, Forest Hill resident Raquel Feldberg began to cry.

While she lay helpless in an emergency hospital bed, debilitated by the clawing agony of the ulcerative colitis she had just been diagnosed with, it was the worry in her husband Alan’s eyes that sent tears rolling.

It was a time of confusion, fear and frustration, when all she wanted to do was celebrate the couple’s second child, who was just months old at the time. The diagnosis began a painful 11-year journey of medication, unsuccessful surgeries and unfathomable stress for the family. Fortunately, after more than a decade, great strides forward in research have been made to help Raquel Feldberg and thousands of other Canadians suffering from the strains of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s and colitis.

“I know how bad this is [ulcerative colitis]. I feel now I need to help,” Raquel said. “I’m on a mission to help. It’s very hard to talk about the disease, and some people simply don’t have the strength, so I feel I should.”

For most of the past decade she had struggled with fatigue and medication side effects but “managed well enough.” In late 2011 her disease became dire and unmanageable with medication alone. It meant a series of serious surgeries, one to remove her colon outright and one that was an unsuccessful J-pouch operation (a surgically constructed internal reservoir) that eventually led to complications of infection and gangrene. For the better part of two years she was in and out of hospital, but all the while, helped fundraise for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada (CCC) and used her skill as an artist to provide items for the organization’s charitable auctions. In early 2013 she had successful J-pouch surgery and, while recovering in her hospital bed, used her cellphone to begin a personal fundraising campaign for CCC’s annual Gutsy Walk. Just five and a half weeks out of that surgery, she walked in the event and was awarded as Toronto’s top CCC fundraiser and one of the top 10 in Canada. She continues on and took part in this year’s Gutsy Walk, held earlier in June, and she and her team, This Bag Ain’t Prada, were again among the top 10 fundraisers in the country.

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