TEDxBoston

Cassidy Bargell

National Champion (2019), Harvard Rugby

Cassidy (Cass) is a senior at Harvard College concentrating in integrative biology and government. She was recruited to play rugby from her home town of Silverthorne, Colorado where she played and eventually captained for the local high school team. During her high school career she was named to the All-State team 4 years in a row, was named Colorado Rugby MVP in 2017, and received attention as one of the top high school players in the country. At Harvard, Cass was an All-American for the D1 varsity women’s rugby program as both a freshman and sophomore, was a finalist for collegiate player of the year in 2019, was named to the All-Ivy Academic 1st team in 2020, and was elected captain in 2021. During the pandemic, Cass trained full time with USA Rugby while completing her junior year remotely. She was a part of USA Rugby’s 15s World Cup Top 50 player pool, and co-captained the 7s developmental side. It was during this year that she first developed gastrointestinal symptoms. When she eventually returned to campus for her senior fall in 2021, a diagnosis of severe acute ulcerative colitis upended her training and her studies. After all medical therapy options failed, she underwent a total colectomy (removal of her colon) and now has an ileostomy. An ileostomy is an opening in the abdominal wall where the end of the small intestine is pulled through, and an external bag is attached. Since surgery she has returned to Harvard and to full-contact rugby. Cass’ surgery provided not only relief to her physical pain, it also opened the door to a new community of ostomates. Cass learned first-hand dealing with the challenges of IBD and illness can be scary and isolating, and hopes by sharing her story she can connect with and help others.