Gut it Out: Jake Diekman's Fight Against UC

Externally at 6-foot-4-inches and 200 pounds, Texas Rangers relief pitcher, Jake Diekman, looks healthy and fit. Internally, he struggles with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that he has lived with for the past 18 years.

When Diekman was 11 years old, he became extremely ill following a family trip to California. His family originally thought he had water poisoning, but he was still sick after two weeks of returning home. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

During the 2013 MLB offseason, Diekman's ulcerative colitis flared up. While staying at his Nebraska home, he began to feel irritable, overheated, and sluggish. He then lost 20 pounds over two weeks -- a lot for anyone, but especially for a pitcher who depends on his weight to help generate power. Diekman knew he needed to "gut it out" and take control of his disease.

"I was like, this is enough, I'm tired of it," Diekman said to The News Journal. "It [stinks] to see little kids that have it in the hospital and their bodies can't handle it because their system is so weak that they're in the hospital for three or four months at a time." 

He had the phrase "Gut It Out" tattooed on the inside of his right wrist and, after speaking with his agent at Beverly Hills Sports Council, worked with Athlete's Brand to design a "Gut It Out" t-shirt. The t-shirts went on sale in March of 2015 and quickly reached Diekman's fundraising goal of $7,000, with the proceeds going to CCFA. The shirts have since raised over $12,000 for CCFA, and the shirts, which were supposed to be available for a limited time only, are now permanently available through Athlete's Brand.

"'Gut It Out' hits home for people with inflammatory bowel disease because of where the disease is located and how debilitating it can be," Diekman says. "Having IBD can be really painful. It's a day-to-day disease you have to deal with. That's why you have to gut it out each day. No matter what your problem is, somebody has it worse. Life could be a lot worse."

Diekman's commitment to CCFA extends beyond his t-shirt fundraiser. Diekman makes it a priority to meet and interact with young IBD patients. He has personally requested and executed meet and greets with CCFA children and teens while playing in Philadelphia, Denver, Texas, Anaheim and Arizona. While playing on the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers, Diekman organized “CCFA Night” at the ballpark, where a portion of the ticket sales benefitted CCFA.  

Thanks to the medication infusions he receives every two months, Diekman is able to stay healthy and maintain his ideal weight. Unfortunately this isn't the end of his battle with ulcerative colitis, as he will live with it for the rest of his life. But as long as he continues to "gut it out," he'll keep pushing forward. Diekman's "Gut It Out" shirts are available for purchase here. You can also find Jake on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Aug. 10, 2016 - Source: Rick Yeatts/Getty Images North America