May 20, 2010

NADEAU FIGHTS CROHN'S, LEADS VCU

By Chris Kowalczyk

By the time Vincent Nadeau reached the eighth tee, his stomach pain was nearly unbearable. He was scheduled to play 36 holes that day, and would spend most of it nearly doubled-over. As play backed-up at the eighth tee, Nadeau laid down on the ground in the fetal position.

"We're waiting on the eighth hole and there's a back-up and he's laying on the ground curled up like a baby," VCU Head Coach Matt Ball said. "I'm like, Vinny, are you alright? And he says, 'my stomach's killing me.' I told him, you don't have to keep playing. He said, 'the more it hurts, the more birdies I make. I'm fine.''

It was Sept. 6, 2009 and Nadeau was competing with VCU at the Maryland Intercollegiate golf tournament. Despite the pain, Nadeau shot 71 and 68 in back-to-back rounds that day, placing seventh in a field of more than 90 golfers. It's those types of performances that have led Ball to refer to Nadeau as "The Bulldog", but that doesn't mean he's invincible.

Nadeau has Crohn's Disease, a disorder that causes painful inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. People who suffer from Crohn's are subject to abdominal pain, weight loss and lethargy. Crohn's can be treated with medication and diet, but the disease can flare up occasionally, with debilitating results.

"When it's bad, it hurts so bad that you want to lay just on the ground," Nadeau said. "You pretty much can't move. It's like a terrible cramp that's like nothing you've ever experienced."

Nadeau was diagnosed with the disease during his freshman year at Purdue University in 2006. He had suffered through a couple of painful bouts with the disease, but nothing as bad as the fall of 2009, when he said it often hurt to walk.  

Originally, Nadeau didn't even want to tell Ball about his Crohn's Disease. Nadeau admits he doesn't broach the subject often and hates using it as an excuse. He was on campus almost a year before his Crohn's flared up to the point where he had to tell his coach.

"I didn't want him to worry about it," Nadeau said. "It's not a big deal to me."

Crohn's causes the immune system to attack the intestinal tract and can keep the body from absorbing nutrients from food. As a result, Nadeau lost 25 pounds off of his already slight, 5-foor-6, 150-pound frame. Coupled with the cramping, it hurt to even get out of bed. His play on the golf course suffered, not to mention his quality of life.

As a sophomore for the Rams in 2007-08, Nadeau captured two tournaments and a First Team All-CAA award. But last season, with Crohn's ravaging his digestive tract, Nadeau saw his stroke average climb from 72.66 to 74.29.

Eventually, doctors switched Nadeau to a stronger medication, one that the Heritage Hall, Okla. native has to inject directly into his stomach. The medicine is so powerful, it causes a burning sensation when it's injected. Nadeau also adheres to a low-fiber diet and avoids milk.

Crohn's has also turned Nadeau into quite the juicer. Liquids are absorbed more quickly by the body, making them a superior nutrient-delivery device.  After researching the benefits of juicing online, Nadeau purchased a Jack LaLanne-brand juicer. He mixes a variety of fruits and vegetables, although, not all combinations are created equal.

"I'll put anything in there, really," he said. "Kiwis, all kinds of fruits. Even carrots, but I don't mix the Kiwis with the carrots too often. I've even tried tomatoes and cucumbers, but they're not very good."

With his Crohn's Disease largely in check this year, Nadeau has returned to form. He's lowered his 18-hole scoring average by nearly a stroke and was named All-CAA Second Team. Through the pain and the trouble Crohn's Disease has caused him, Nadeau refuses sympathy and pity.

"He's a tough kid," Ball said. "He doesn't whine or cry about it. I'm not really sure how bad it really was at times. You sense from those kinds of things that it was really bad. But he never missed a practice. He never missed any tournament play."

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