Buried in Isolation: How Sports Help Andrew Belliveau Cope With Rare Disease
Image Courtesy of Andrew Belliveau
Isolated, scared, and quarantined from the everyday world are characteristics of Andrew Belliveau’s life at all times … not just during a global pandemic.
Belliveau, an avid New England sports fan, is battling a very rare disease called Gastroparesis that leaves the 22-year-old isolated from the outside world throughout most of his life.
A condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying, Gastroparesis causes damage to nerve controls in an individual’s stomach muscles. The disease causes nausea, dehydration, vomiting, heartburn, and major diet changes.
Gastroparesis is caused by an underlying nerve issue in the body’s stomach. The disease is a long-lasting chronic disease, meaning there is no treatment other than a few medications and stimulator implantation in an attempt to control its symptoms.
Diagnosed at age 10, Belliveau says that he “lives with constant nausea and vomiting about 10 to 15 times per day.”
Belliveau says the hardest part about the disease is the fear of going out in public. “It’s kind of like the COVID-19 pandemic. You can’t enjoy normal functions like birthdays, holidays, sporting events, or going out to eat because you don’t want to have to run to the bathroom and vomit later on.”
Andrew says he lives in a constant state of embarrassment from having to run to the bathroom every 15 minutes, saying, “Although people understand, the stares and constant looks take a toll on you.”
Living with the disease for over 12 years, Belliveau has turned to sports to help him cope. Attending various sporting events around the Boston area, Belliveau looks at sports as a time to forget about his disease as he lives in the moment. Even just watching sports on television is something that allows Belliveau to forget about his disease at times. However, with all sports suspended in the U.S. until further notice, the sports fanatic will have to wait a while, like many others in the world, to have sports as an outlet.
— Andrew Belliveau (@Jingle_BELLS_25) September 28, 2017
With the coronavirus pandemic happening around the globe, Belliveau hopes that this crisis opens the eyes of many to what it’s like to live in his shoes.
“Life with Gastroparesis is very similar to what we are experiencing with the COVID-19 virus right now,” Andrew says. “Being quarantined, isolated, scared, wanting to do stuff but can’t is what I feel like every single day.”
Impacted by late Mass. native Pete Frates, who introduced the infamous ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” Andrew came up with his own challenge to raise awareness for his condition.
“GP Pie In The Face Challenge” was introduced in 2016. The challenge was introduced on social media, challenging people to smash a pie in their face and donate to the G-PACT Gastroparesis non-profit that raises awareness to research efforts of the disease.
— Chief Chavis™ (@MichaelChavis11) February 17, 2020
In just four years, Belliveau and his challenges have been recognized by many athletes, including Red Sox players David Price and Michael Chavis and Patriots players such as Julian Edelman. Pies in over 37 states and three different countries have been thrown by celebrities, athletes and media personalities. Belliveau has raised over $10,000 in a quest to help find a cure for Gastroparesis.
Never one to back down from a challenge. Hey @TomBrady @DannyAmendola @bakermayfield you’re next up in the @gppieface challenge. Let’s see it boys! #GatroparesisAwarenessMonth https://t.co/O9X1ARzLsy pic.twitter.com/H6eXDjkqSW
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) August 9, 2019
Today, Belliveau continues his quest to raise awareness for Gastroparesis as he works towards a master’s degree while being a preschool teacher. His hope is that the COVID-19 pandemic opens the eyes of many to the struggles of those diagnosed with Gastroparesis.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to receive the support that I have. But I’m determined to find a cure for this debilitating condition.”
To learn more about Gastroparesis, go to www.g-pact.org.