Some have wondered why Patriots tackle Matt Light decided to retire after only 11 years in the NFL. The truth is that he could have been out of the league much sooner.
Light revealed on Monday night to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com that Light has been battling Crohn’s disease for several years — and that he nearly died due to the disease in 2004.
“It was one of the darkest periods in my life,” Light explained, referring to a series of surgeries that kept him in the hospital for 30 days.
“I basically got to the point, over the 3-4 years of being diagnosed with Crohn’s, that I couldn’t handle the pain anymore,” Light said regarding a decision to have 13 inches of his colon removed in 2004. “The pain became so difficult that in the offseason it just paralyzed me. I’d hit the ground. You can’t wake up. You can’t sit down. You can’t do anything without this becoming a problem.”
Complications caused him to drop from 315 pounds to 260. “That happened in June, and I made it to training camp in the third week [of August], but not without having literally a near-death experience where I had another blockage post-surgery that I wasn’t aware of — all these complications.”
Light said he’s disclosing the condition now because he ultimately was able to leave football without Crohn’s disease forcing him out.
“It’s not to tell the story as ‘woe is me’ — I could care less about that — but when you go through something like that and it’s that wild of a time . . . I always wanted to finish the game of football and go out on my terms and the way I wanted to do it.”
Light learned he had the disease during his rookie year.
“I knew I had some issues in 2001, due to some bleeding and where I was finding that,” Light said. “People that have it know, whether it’s using the restroom or all the other things that come along with it, the pain that comes along with it and how it affects people, it’s just a very ugly disease.”
Light’s decision to reveal his struggle serves as an example to others with the condition that life can still be lived at a very high level.
“A lot of people suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, and it’s something that if you have the right mindset . . . I always went into things saying, ‘I can beat anything.’ I’ve gotten down, very depressed, very angry about having this thing looming over me for so long, but at the end of the day, there is always something you can do,” Light said.
“Staying positive and knowing there were times where I told myself, ‘This is just what it is’ and you have to push through it, I think that all helped strengthen me to the point I am today. So, in some respect, dealing with that issue maybe kept me in the game longer. It’s been a part of my life, for sure.”
We wish Light the best in his retirement, and we congratulate him on his decision to share his story. It will indeed be an inspiration to those who are living with the disease, in any of its various forms and degrees of severity.