But that wasn’t always the case.
Stubblefield, who grew up playing at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw and now makes his home at Woodmont Golf and Country Club in Canton, was diagnosed about 10 years ago with an incurable autoimmune disease called ulcerative colitis, which attacks the digestive system.
Stubblefield’s diagnosis came shortly after he graduated from Georgia. He took a trip and began experiencing symptoms that included stomach pain, diarrhea, bleeding and an urgency to go to the bathroom.
“I came back and went to the doctor and found out it was full-blown UC,” Stubblefield said. “They were pretty nasty symptoms.”
Looking back, Stubblefield said he realized he was first experiencing symptoms about 18 months before seeking treatment. Ulcerative colitis is essentially an immune response that attacks the lining of the colon.
“I had some symptoms building up to it that I kind of ignored because I was in college,” Stubblefield said. “I was at UGA going out all the time. I didn’t have the best diet. It was really the trip that made me realize that I needed to get it checked out and figure out what was going on.”
Stubblefield said receiving a diagnosis was actually a relief.
“When you have all the blood work done, they don’t want to tell you anything,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s colon cancer, or what.”
He said he initially went through the “what-ifs.”
“You think, ‘What if I had eaten a vegetarian diet?’ or gluten-free or whatever,” Stubblefield said. “It’s good just to figure out what you have and then decide a course of treatment.”
Though the cause of the disease is unknown, but has been linked to genetics and stress. Those who suffer from ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Many falsely assume that it is related to the food they consume.
Over the years, Stubblefield has learned to live with the disease, which affects about 700,000 people in the United States. For several years, he had to adjust his life around his condition, but he eventually got the disease under control.
“You go from living your life like anyone else to thinking that you may not be able to do anything during the day because you are coping with the effects of the disease,” Stubblefield said. “I modified some of my behavior. It affected by career path. I chose something that I could do my own thing and not have an office to be stuck in.”
From 2004 to 2008, Stubblefield tried different diets and medications, but nothing seemed to help. After hearing a radio advertisement for a clinical study, Stubblefield called for more information and was put in contact a gastroenterology specialist in Johns Creek.
“I was unhappy with my treatment at the time, so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by trying something else,” he said. “I wanted to hear more about the potential drug in the radio ad, but they went five steps further. They wanted to go through all the other options that were available to me as well.”
Stubblefield ended up in the clinical trial and continues taking the medication to this day.
“The drug worked well for me,” he said. “From the first injection that I got, I went from having those frequent symptoms to a complete 180 within a couple of weeks. All I do now is get an injection of the Simponi drug once a month. I have had no symptoms. I feel completely 100 percent.”
Stubblefield, who works as a sales representative for a medical supply company, said he no longer takes playing a round of golf for granted. He has even returned to competition, recently playing in the Georgia Amateur at his old Pinetree course. He is the defending club champion at Woodmont as well and plays about 40 rounds a year, mostly on the weekends
“Now, I have no symptoms,” he said. “I get checked once or twice a year now. My life has really turned around the last four or five years.”
Stubblefield and his wife, Whitney, have a 3-year old daughter, Audrey, and another daughter on the way.
Stubblefield has recently begun to think about fundraising to help those suffering receive the treatment they need. He said he currently isn’t aware of any such efforts.
“Things types of things, like UC or Crohn’s disease, aren’t sexy illnesses,” he said. “It’s not like cancer and AIDS, where people have runs or walks. No one wants to talk about them, but it’s not too hard to find someone who suffers from them or know someone who does. Cancer and AIDS affect your immediate life, but UC and Crohn’s are chronic. You suffer from them for the rest of your life. They can be equally torturous.”
Stubblefield said that if he has learned anything from having the disease, it’s that each patient needs to find the doctor and treatment that works for them.
“If your current treatment isn’t working, you’ve got to switch up what you are doing and find a different team to find something that will work,” he said.