A Rising Musical Talent & Inspiring Canadian Gem

With infectious positive energy and a drive to follow his dreams, John O’Regan (AKA Diamond Rings) is an inspiration, particularly for anyone living with a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease. Commonly diagnosed in youth, Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract.

O’Regan, now in his twenties, learned that he had Crohn’s disease a few years ago while touring with his Ontario post-punk band, The D’Urbervilles. After months of treatment, he left the hospital with a life-changing diagnosis and a number of new songs. In contrast to his more traditional role in The D’Urbervilles, for his solo act, Diamond Rings, he is a fashion ground-breaker, dance innovator, and electric pop hero whose talent is being noticed all over North America. He was kind enough to take some time out of a recent tour to share his story with the GI Society.


Can you describe your experience of being diagnosed with Crohn’s?

My experience was fairly traumatic and I remember it vividly. The band I was playing in at the time had just returned to Toronto following a month-long tour and we’re set to play our final show when I just started running a fever and feeling tremendous pain in my abdomen. It got bad enough that my band cancelled our show and drove me straight to the emergency room that, fortunately, was down the street. The nurses doped me up and when I came to the next morning, I found out that I had Crohn’s disease.


What is the make-up of your support circle and how have they helped?

Everyone has been really helpful. It’s something that anyone I work with is made aware of from the outset and they know what to watch out for. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving me a few extra minutes when we stop for gas on the road or making sure that I watch what I’m eating. I’m also really conscious about getting enough rest and listening to my body as much as I possibly can.


How has your experience with Crohn’s disease informed your song writing? It’s common for artists to seek a period of isolation in order to explore issues of identity, one’s vocation as an artist, and sometimes simply to get away from life’s other distractions in order to create something. In your case, it seems that the break from the usual hubbub came to you, instead, in the form of a lengthy hospital stay. Would you describe that a bit?

Certainly. Being diagnosed with Crohn’s was a real blessing in disguise in a way. In my case, I spent nearly three months in and out of the hospital either getting treatment, awaiting surgery, or recovering from surgery. I had just moved to Toronto and being forced to take a time-out and re-evaluate my art while removed from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life was (in hindsight, at least) just what the doctor ordered. Now it’s much easier for me to step back and get into a creative mindset because I’m now very comfortable being alone with my own thoughts.


You give off endless positive energy and charisma. People living with a chronic condition like Crohn’s may start to define themselves by their disease, which can prevent them from developing their individual talents and pursuing their most important goals – especially when the diagnosis happens during a formative time like high school, university, or that first career-focused job. You seem to embody the exact opposite of that. What is your advice to other people newly diagnosed with Crohn’s (or another serious health condition)?

Take the time to get the help that you need and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just because you’re different than whatever our society deems “normal” doesn’t mean that you can’t do whatever you set your mind toward accomplishing. It may take a bit longer to get where it is you want to go but if you keep your head down and work hard it’ll be that much more rewarding when you do.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 181 – 2012
This interview was with GI Society staff member, Susan Mersereau