Fit to Fight: Personal trainer tackles painful disease - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Fit to Fight: Personal trainer tackles painful disease

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SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) -

Hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer from a disease that makes them feel like a prisoner to the nearest bathroom.

One Slidell man says it left him staring death in the face, but you'd never know it today.

On most days, you'll find Jason Butler in the gym at Sculpt Fitness, motivating others to transform their bodies.

"I try to give people what I gave to myself, like that feeling when you change your body and get it to the way you've always wanted to look," says Butler. "You start to get pounds off you've never been able to get off before."

At 29, he looks to be in top shape. It's what you'd expect from a personal trainer.

Sylvia Reine, owner of Sculpt Fitness, says, "Our clients love him. Once someone walks in the door, they come back, they always come back."

The "comeback" is something Butler has mastered. His passion for muscles developed while he was just a scrawny kid, after he says he was tired of getting picked on. He blossomed after high school by lifting weights.

By the time he was 18, he was ripped and getting noticed.

In 2003, Butler took home three trophies, placing first in his division at the Louisiana State Bodybuilding Championships.

But he would soon find out his body had other plans.

"I thought it was just nerves, like whenever you get nervous and have to go to the bathroom," says Butler. "But then I had blood coming out and I was like man, something's not right with this. I couldn't be more than 10 feet away from a toilet. I had to have that security."

In late 2003, doctors diagnosed Jason with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that affects less than 1 percent of the U.S. population.

It's where your body recognizes your colon as foreign, so it attacks it, causing a lot of inflammation in the lining and a lot of symptoms.

By the middle of 2004, Butler had lost more than 75 pounds in two-and-a-half months.

He says, "I was in so much pain, I remember everything around me was just a fog. All I knew was pain. They had me doped up on so much medicine and it didn't help."

 He saw colorectal surgeon Dr. David Margolin at Ochsner Hospital.

"The disease was out of control and it was making him sicker and sicker," says Margolin. "We had no choice but to operate on him at that point."

Doctors removed Butler's large intestine.

"They told me if they had waited a day later to operate, I would have died," Butler recalls.

Doctors then used part of his small intestine to create a separate pouch - what was supposed to be a new rectum sewn to his muscles so that he could still control his bowel movements. It would have been an alternative to an external bag for his body's waste, but it failed.

"He developed infection and abscesses that had to be fixed," Margolin says. "We tried to salvage his pouch here and we couldn't."

Paul Butler flew his son to the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, where another surgery proved unsuccessful.

"We've tried everything known to medical science to fix him," says Butler's dad. "Everything we tried, nothing would work."

Back home, Margolin decided removing the failing pouch was the only option, but that led to an even bigger problem.

"Come to find out, there's a cavity inside of me," says Butler. "The pouch had been leaking inside of me the whole time."

"We've never had one like this. We've all lost pouches, but never like this," says Margolin, who has been practicing medicine since the mid-1990s.

Today, Jason has an ileostomy and a permanent bag. He counts more than three dozen times he has been under the knife.

His dad was sure he would lose him.

"He'd just kind of given up, you know, reached the end of his rope. He was ready to die," says Paul Butler. "Then he decided he didn't want to die. There was more he could get done."

Jason Butler knew he had to finish the season he couldn't in 2003 to prove to himself that he could do it. He wanted to let people know you can come back from anything.

With his ileostomy showing, he entered the 2009 Mr. World Gym competition.

He took best overall and best legs.

 Two months later, his legs would prove to be a winner for doctors still trying to fill that cavity.

They removed the gracilis muscles in both of his legs.

 "We took those muscles and tried to fill the hole," says Dr. Margolin. "We were able to get the hole smaller, but it took a long time for it to finally close."

 Butler has come a long way.

"There were times when I didn't think we were going to get to this point, physically, emotionally and all, and I'm glad he has," says Margolin.

Today, Jason's prognosis is good for a long, healthy life, although he now does something you don't expect from a personal trainer: He smokes an e-cigarette at work, an oddity for someone who beat the odds.

"I actually started smoking when I was in one of those bad times between surgeries, and I was like, I'm dying anyway," recalls Butler. "I guess I kind of used it as a stress reliever."

Butler calls it another challenge for another day.

He's got one focus and one message as he continues to help others get their bodies and minds in the best shape of their lives.

"No matter what you're dealing with, you can still do whatever you want to do with your life. You just have to know your limits and push past them, says Butler. "There's nothing in life worth giving up over."

Ulcerative colitis usually hits people between the ages of 18 and 25 as well as those over 50. It only affects the large intestine.

Crohn's Disease has similar symptoms, but it can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Doctors aren't sure what causes either disease.

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