Like me, my dad has UC. When I was a child I never really knew about his gut problems. I did know that he spent a lot of time in the bathroom. And that he always had a small plastic box filled with little white pills (Lomotil) conveniently tucked into a shirt or pants pocket, and would occasionally pop one of the pills into his mouth. Back in the 60s and 70s we just didn't talk about health problems like we do today.
It wasn't until I started having my own gut problems in high school that I became even remotely aware of my dad's health issue. That was when my mom told me that he was first diagnosed, in the early 60s, about three years after they were married. They had two very young children (my older sisters) when he became so ill he was admitted to the hospital. His doctors told my mom to make sure all of his "papers were in order, just in case." She was merely 25 years old and scared. My dad did get out of the hospital and over time regained his health. Even though he continued to have problems and issues here-and-there I never once heard him complain nor did he ever miss a day of work.
Enter me, the 90s, and my own UC diagnosis. From the first time I told my parents about my diagnosis my dad has always been supportive but quiet. My mom, supportive and more talkative - she has IBS and we tend to compare notes. I think it's partly a male/female thing. But I also think my dad feels guilty that he can't help me, and just bad because he knows what it's like when I'm going through a flare. To this day I don't think he's ever been able to read my book, Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success (www.ibdandibs.com). "He knows what it's like, and he just doesn't want to know exactly how much you've had to deal with," my mom once told me when I questioned her about it. This was hard for me to accept at first, but then I realized that he doesn't need to read my book to know what I'm going through. If you've got IBD then you have a darn good realistic idea of what it's all about. My dad has been supportive, caring, and loving and that's all that I could ever want.
Telling friends about my issue was a whole other story. There were friends who knew right away that something was wrong with me. My plummeting weight was the first tip-off, then my lack of energy and socializing were the second giveaway, and third was the fact that I just couldn't eat or drink like I used to. The people I shared my "whole" story with first were my closest friends. They knew me and I trusted them. We'd been through the good and the bad together and I knew that no matter what I told them they would listen to me, hear me, be empathetic, and helpful.
But, sooner or later, I had to share some things with co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances. This was the late 90s and the internet had gone mainstream which meant health and health problems had gone more mainstream as well. People knew more about their own health and other's health problems. It was no longer taboo to talk about your ills and what you were doing to treat yourself. TV commercials talked about everything from erectile dysfunction to peeing on a stick to tell if you were pregnant. And, even if IBD wasn't well-known at the time, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), lactose-intolerance, and gluten-intolerance were becoming household terms that people could understand.