“I have the mentality that I don’t want to have someone else do my job. If I’m tired, I push through it, because I don’t want to be watching other people do it.”
That was the outlook Lauren Bluth had both on and off the field – until a battle with ulcerative colitis proved too much for her to handle alone.
Now the senior defender for UVU soccer quietly, but gratefully, admits her need for a support system that includes her family and teammates.
“I have a problem accepting help, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it,” Bluth said. “I’ve needed help a lot. I’ve had some health issues, and I needed my teammates to help me through the fitness. I needed by parents to help me when I couldn’t work.”
That’s because ulcerative colitis, similar to Crohn’s disease, is an intestinal ailment that causes rapid and extreme weight loss. It affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. population and there is no conclusive cause of the disease.
“It just comes out of nowhere,” Bluth said. “You have no way to predict it.”
It’s a hard blow to athletes, who are told to stay conditioned during the offseason. For Bluth, who prides herself in her individual work ethic, the disease was particularly cruel. She lost an estimated 20-30 pounds before being cleared for athletic activity.
“Last year, I came in the best conditioned of everyone,” Bluth said. “This year, I came in the worst. It was a big difference for me. I’m a senior. I’m supposed to be a leader and everything. It was the hardest thing ever.”
Instead of helping others, the senior defender was forced to let others help her. Coach Brent Anderson stayed after practices to help her with strengthening exercises. Teammates exuded confidence towards the player who had only ever needed encouragement from herself.
“My team helped me and encouraged me,” Bluth said. “Even if I was doing a ‘two’ and they were doing a ‘ten’ at something, they would tell me I was doing good.”
Bluth’s ‘two’ slowly became a ‘three,’ then a ‘four,’ until she was ready just before the start of the regular season.
What drives Bluth is the same thing that drove her to pursue soccer at UVU in the first place – the conviction that she is not done playing soccer yet.
And while the disease could strike again at any time, Bluth knows now she won’t be helpless, or alone, if it does.
“There are so many things I didn’t think I’d be able to do, but that I’ve done with the help of teammates and coaches,” Bluth said.