Living Beyond Crohn's Disease

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Melissa Quartarone
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Melissa Quartarone
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Sept. 17, 2013

By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com

When Melissa Quartarone was 14 years old, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines.

She remembers getting into rifle after being diagnosed, then later filling out a scholarship for how she had lived beyond Crohn’s.

At that point, in high school, Quartarone had earned a distinguished badge for rifle, and it was numbered, No. 256, something that she will never forget.  She thought that was the biggest thing ever and that she had taken her sport to the top.

Since then, she said, it has kept going and keeps getting better, and she doesn't want it to end.

Quartarone was referring specifically to rifle, but it could have also been her summer internship with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, or perhaps, one day, living without Crohn’s disease.

“Physically, I was just weak,” she said of her diagnosis. “I was 20 pounds under weight. So I came into the next year, and I wasn't sure I was even able to do rifle. The coach thought I was too small. It was a 15-pound rifle, and I only weighed 60 pounds myself.

“But I am stubborn, and I wanted to have something. I wanted to be able to do something. I didn't just want to sit around and be, 'all woe is me.' I needed something. I needed a physical outlet, and rifle really gave me that to begin with. I feel like sometimes in high school that I coddled the fact that I wasn't physically able to do a lot of things. And when I came to college, I wanted to shut that off.”

The senior from Stone Mountain, Ga., did ballet and tap dancing for 12 years, and then switched to rifle, which she said was a lot less physically demanding and was almost like physical therapy for her disease in a way. Her start in the sport, like everything thing else, was her inner drive.

“My coach didn't want me to be there,” Quartarone said. “He sent out an email to everyone who made the team. I didn't get one, and the understanding was if you didn't get an email, you didn't show up to practice. I showed up to practice. I don't let anyone hold me back. If someone is going to hold me back, it's going to be me, and nobody else.

“And it was funny because I showed up to practice, and nobody else did. That was the day he outfitted me in all my gear. That was the day I shot a perfect 100 in prone. I like to disprove people. I just had to prove them wrong. And when I did, it was glorious.”

From there, Quartarone started being recruited for rifle, during which she was told to choose a school for academics first then choose a school for its athletics.  Forensic Chemistry led her to Ole Miss.

As part of her major, forensic chemistry, Quartarone is required to do an internship in a certified lab.   She applied to the GBI, because she wanted to go back home. After a polygraph test and phone interview, in late May, she was notified that she received the internship.

Her first month, the primary two things she did was run a hair study, comparing forcibly removed hairs to normal hairs from a brush or comb, and collecting paint data for the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy Paint Data Query database, which is a searchable database of chemical and color information of automotive paint.

The second month, Quartarone did a lot of work with other sections, from the medical examiner's office, to toxicology, to chemistry, to firearms to forensic DNA, to latent prints.

For Quartarone, her internship showed her that she could do a lot more with forensic chemistry than she had originally thought.

“The people that I met there, they encouraged me to go away from my major, forensic chemistry,” she said. “While I'm good at chemistry, and I understand it, I found I would probably get bored with doing chemistry every day. It encouraged me to do more hands-on, mechanical things that you can't do with chemistry. I was looking more at latent prints, trace evidence and firearms, more like physical evidence than drug analysis.”

Rifle has kept her grounded, and while she looks forward to a possible career in forensic chemistry, Quartarone has some collegiate rifle goals that she hasn’t met.

A three-time Academic All-American and a second team All-American her sophomore season, she wants to help Ole Miss make the NCAA Championships as well as compete as an individual.

After graduation in May, Quartarone plans to train for two years to see if she can make the national team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, a goal she set for herself after a fifth-place finish at USAS nationals this year.

“You would think that having the internship would make me want to jump right into the crime lab, but really, it made me want to come into that, knowing that I had completed another stage of my life.

“I've been with rifle for almost eight years now, and I desire to have that completion, that feeling of taking it as far as I can take it.  I won't feel that until I give everything to try and make the Olympic team and see where that takes me.”

Making the national team or an Olympic team is the ultimate, but for Quartarone, it has been more about moving forward and feeling like she has lived beyond her disease.

“If the next two years, I don't ever make the national team, or the Olympics, I don't think I will be disappointed because it's a learning process, and I'm going to be doing something I love,” she said. “I won't be disappointed in myself. I will be satisfied that I tried.”

When asked about the biggest surprise, it wasn’t rifle, or school, but how much better she feels physically, that sometimes she forgets she has Crohn’s disease until she has to get a medical infusion, which is how the disease is treated.

Quartarone used to have to go every eight weeks and get a medical infusion. Now, it’s every 10 or 12 weeks, and she said it is plausible for her to be fully healthy in the future without medical infusions.

That is living beyond Crohn’s disease.

Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller

Ole Miss Gear
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Blog
    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 15-21)

      Monday, September 22, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewSept. 15-21, 2014Volleyball- Ole Miss went 4-0 to capture the Rebel Classic and improve to 14-0 on the season.- Through four weeks of the season, the Rebels have equaled last year's win total (14-17).- Sophomore... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Sept. 21

      Sunday, September 21, 2014 - Athletics

      This is the fourth installment of Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss Sports. This week... read more

    • Rebels Finish Non-Conference on High Note

      Saturday, September 20, 2014 - Volleyball

      The Ole Miss Volleyball team remained undefeated at 14-0 and matched last year's win total with a 4-0 weekend at the Rebel Classic capped by wins over Lamar (3-0) and Jackson State (3-1) Saturday. The last three sets against Jackson... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 4

      Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 4 - ULL (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.In case you missed it, The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 1, The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 2 and The Season: Ole Miss... read more

    • Freeze Talks Open Date, SEC West

      Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' open date and return to action on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Memphis.Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:50:18 mark. For the... read more

    • NASCAR's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Visits Ole Miss

      Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - Football

      NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team. Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 8-14)

      Monday, September 15, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewSept. 8-14, 2014Volleyball- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1... read more

    • Historic Start to the Football Season

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Football

      After a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, released on Sunday.  Despite breaking into the top 10, the Rebels remain fifth among Southeastern Conference Western Division... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Sept. 14

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Athletics

      This is the third installment of Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss Sports. This week... read more

    • Three Rebels Net First Goals of the Season

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Soccer

      Leading 1-0 after controlling the play for much of the game, Ole Miss opened up a 3-0 lead on Middle Tennessee with a pair of goals in the final minute of the first half on the way to a 4-0... read more

    • Golson's Buy-In Pays Off

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Senior cornerback Senquez Golson has come a long way since he was a freshman.  That season, he was most notably on the receiving end of a highlight reel juke from Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Three years later, as part... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss-ULL Motivational

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss vs ULL Official Team Motivational from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-ULL

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday. Wearing the Bull's-Eye After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll,... read more

    • Thompson Lifts Rebels to Historic Start

      Friday, September 12, 2014 - Volleyball

      With a chance to make history, Ole Miss dropped a first set for the first time this season. The Rebels answered the bell winning the next three sets to defeat Jacksonville State 3-1 and improve to 10-0 on the season,... read more

    • VIDEO: Return of The Grove

      Friday, September 12, 2014 - Football

      read more