SEATTLE -- Almost seven years after going public with a very private matter, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready plays from the heart in more ways than one. McCready will perform his signature electric-guitar version of the national anthem prior to the Mariners' game against the Angels on Tuesday night for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. The performance is part of a special evening to raise funds and awareness for people living with inflammatory bowel diseases.
In 2002, McCready made public his 20-year battle with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and has since been committed to raising awareness and funding for CCFA. "As a patient living with Crohn's and colitis, the CCFA has played a huge part in helping me get the support and information that I need," McCready said in a recent interview with Rick Turner of Health Talk. More than once, a Crohn's attack forced McCready to run off stage in the middle of a concert in a desperate search for a bathroom. The goal of CCFA Night at Safeco Field is to raise funds for the foundation and the Northwest Chapter, which actively supports more than 60,000 Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis patients living in the Northwest. In addition to raising funds, CCFA will be on-site to help raise general awareness of both diseases, which, due to severe symptoms, are often kept quiet. CCFA is the only non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Commonly referred to as inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, it is estimated that more than 1.4 million Americans are living with these incurable digestive diseases. Symptoms are painful and include rectal bleeding, intense abdominal cramping, fatigue, malnutrition, stunted growth in children and uncontrollable diarrhea. For more information on CCFA and/or inflammatory bowel disease, please visit www.ccfa.org. McCready has been an up-front spokesman for the CCFA. "I was not always that way," McCready said. "I was quite embarrassed by it and ashamed and wanted to not talk about it and hide. After years of doing that and living miserably, my wife got tired of me complaining about it, and said, 'Hey, look, you should try to lend your voice to this and promote awareness. Do something positive with this experience.' "And so a light went off in my head, and I was like, 'OK, I think that's right.' And by doing that, it has enhanced my life in innumerable ways -- socially, spiritually, medical-wise. To just meet people that have Crohn's or colitis and to hear their stories gives me a lot of hope and a lot of courage." McCready recalled of his battles with the disease. "I was just 21 and had moved down to Los Angeles to try to make it in my band, 'Shadow,'" he said. "We came down and had dropped out of college, and I was going for it. "I remember the day, I don't know the exact date, but I remember it was in 1986 and I was at a Johnny Rockets, and all of a sudden, I had to get to the bathroom immediately. And I remember a guy was in there, and I was like, 'Oh, man, did I eat something wrong? What happened?' And so, I figured it was something that I might have eaten, because I wasn't really eating that great. "At that point, it continued for about a week or two weeks, and then I went into the doctor's office, and the guy said, 'Well, it looks like you have ulcerative colitis.'" McCready was put on various medications, some of which have worked better than others. He said the disease, "Shattered my hopes and dreams. It was a whole new chapter on my life. It was like, 'Dude, you have got to do something with your life.' It affected me in a way like well, maybe I can't even do music or maybe I need to get back home and take care of this and see what could happen. "So it was very much a deciding factor of me going back to Seattle at that time -- because I was sick and I was away from home, and I didn't know what was going on and I was young, and it felt like it was the end." But it wasn't the end, and that's the message McCready sends out every day -- with or without a guitar in his hands.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.