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 (Aug. 25-31)

      Monday, September 1, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewAug. 25-31, 2014Football- No. 18 Ole Miss opened the 2014 season with a 35-13 win over Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.- The Rebels led 7-6 entering the fourth quarter... read more

    • ESPN's Chucky Mullins Documentary to Debut Thursday

      Monday, September 1, 2014 - Football

      The SEC Storied documentary "It's Time," centered on the the inspirational friendship between former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines and former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, will premiere on Tuesday on the Vanderbilt campus and will debut on... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Aug. 31

      Sunday, August 31, 2014 - Athletics

      This is a new concept we've created for the Ole Miss Sports Blog that we're calling Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations... read more

    • What They're Saying: Ole Miss-Boise State

      Friday, August 29, 2014 - Football

      The No. 18 Ole Miss football team won the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game defeating Boise State 35-13. The Rebels move into Southeastern Conference next week with a road test at Vanderbilt from Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. The... read more

    • 'The New Normal' on Defense

      Friday, August 29, 2014 - Football

      ATLANTA -- Boise State had been the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 40.2 points per game dating back to the 2000 season.  Highlighted by four interceptions, eight tackles for loss and big hits by several different players, the... read more

    • Second-Half Surge for Rebel Offense

      Friday, August 29, 2014 - Football

      ATLANTA -- After an up-and-down first half, which included a touchdown and three interceptions, senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense found their stride in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. Leading 7-6 early in the... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss-Boise State Motivational

      Thursday, August 28, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss vs Boise State Official Team Motivational '14 from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Boise State

      Thursday, August 28, 2014 - Football

      Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Contrast in Experience Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen... read more

    • Volleyball Opens Steven McRoberts Era

      Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - Volleyball

      Here are three pieces to keep in mind as we look ahead to the Ole Miss volleyball team's season-opening weekend in Buffalo, New York, starting with Canisius on Friday morning, the first of four matches over three days at the... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 1

      Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 1 (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Dome, Sweet Dome for Atlanta Area Rebels

      Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - Football

      For high school football players in Georgia, all roads lead to the Georgia Dome and the state championships.  For a handful of Rebels, those roads lead home, as Ole Miss opens the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A... read more

    • VIDEO: Forward Together Construction Update

      Monday, August 25, 2014 - Athletics

      read more

    • Relentless is the Word on Defense

      Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Football

      ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy asked each of the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences to describe their team in one word.  Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's word? Relentless. The same can be said of the Ole Miss defense.  And... read more

    • McCormick, Defense Shine in Win

      Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Soccer

      After playing 110 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Georgia on Friday night, Ole Miss responded with a gutsy 1-0 win over Iowa State on Sunday afternoon. The defense, led by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick was the story of the... read more

    • Rebels Battle to Draw on Historic Night

      Friday, August 22, 2014 -

      Big time crowd for @SECNetwork live sports event debut. Record attendance of 1,823 for @OleMissSoccer Let's finish strong.-- Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) August 23, 2014 Ole Miss kicked off the 2014 season in thrilling fashion, rallying to a 1-1 draw with... read more