Kallie Kassner endures through the pain, the quarter-inch of small intestine protruding through her abdomen wall and the pouch that collects the waste.
The 29-year-old will return to Stanford University in early March to begin the process of removing the temporary ileostomy … to give back the pouch … to take back her life.
“Fingers crossed,” she said of the surgical procedure associated to her Crohn’s disease and the removal of her colon. “It’s been quite an adjustment.
“Having a pouch is like taking care of a baby – it’s high maintenance. You have to be prepared for anything. Anything can happen at any time. It’s really annoying.”
Kassner has lived with Crohn’s now for more than a decade, and though her condition was originally misdiagnosed, nothing has compared to the frustration of the past year. The 2002 Manteca High graduate has been in and out of the hospital for nine months, a stretch that includes surgeries and check-ups, infections and ambulance rides.
“I’ve been to the emergency room so many times, I can recognize the people working there,” she quipped.
On Thursday, she enjoyed her first sweet treat amid a calendar full of sour days.
Kassner was the guest of honor at an ice cream benefit Thursday evening at the Baskin-Robbins on North Main Street in Manteca, the franchise nearest the Rite Aid where she’s employed.
The benefit was coordinated by her best friend Charity Atkins and her mother, Candace Haskell, in conjunction with Baskin-Robbins owner Joe Mashni. The hope was to raise money for Kassner’s medical expenses, which range from $5,000-10,000.
“I’m so grateful to have people like that in my life that care so much and go to all that effort,” Kassner said of Atkins and her mother. “I’m lucky to have kept a friend like that for 27 years. They’re like a second family and have been for a very longtime.”
The three accomplished their objective, raising more than $1,100. Baskin-Robbins also contributed $250, approximately 20 percent of its sales during a three-hour window.
“It was a great turnout,” Mashni said.
People filled the lobby of the store, each excited to see and speak with Kassner. Some were complete strangers, clutching the story that appeared in The Bulletin. Others emerged from her past – former classmates and old acquaintances.
Kassner was overwhelmed by the generosity. The money, she says, will help her cover medical costs while she’s off work. The Rite Aid pharmacy technician hasn’t work for nine months and isn’t scheduled to come off disability until December.
Still, the sweetest part of Thursday’s benefit was the forum it created to freely discuss Crohn’s.
For years, Kassner says she lived alone with her disease. She found it hard to share her experiences and hardships with others without “people looking at you sad or feeling pity,” she said. “You don’t want that.”
On Thursday, Kassner was met by a proactive bunch, each willing to invest in her fight with money and understanding.
“The greatest thing that came from that night were the people that come out to just talk to me,” she said. “It felt good to share with them what I’ve gone through.
“You feel good just to get it out.”
Kassner not only shared her story, but offered her contact information to those that wanted to learn more about her life with Crohn’s. She also handed out flyers with a post from her favorite blog, “Inflammed and Untamed.”
“It was good to see complete strangers come out just because they wanted to meet me, or they were moved by the article, or they wanted to talk to me about what they had gone through,” Kassner said. “It was overwhelming.”
She says she spoke with a gentleman who also lived with a colostomy pouch. “He said it would get easier,” Kassner said.
To contact Kallie Kasner, e-mail email@example.com.