For a long time, when I was growing up, I had issues with my stomach. I was always seeing doctors, was in and out of emergency rooms. For almost five years, no one could figure out what was going on. Then, when I was 17, a doctor mentioned Crohn’s disease.
That was the first time I had heard of it. I had no idea what it was. Not a clue.
It was a bit of a relief to finally get an answer and to put a name to what was causing me so much trouble. Now I knew what was going on and could get the right treatment.
But it was tough to also know that I had a chronic disease that would always be part of my life.
I had just started college when I was diagnosed and like me, most of my friends didn’t know much about Crohn’s and what it did. It was hard for them to grasp that I wasn’t able to do things 17-year-olds do in college. It was hard for them to understand that there were days when I was just too sick to go out. There were some friends I actually lost touch with because they didn’t understand how much it affected me.
But most of my friends did. The first time I was ever hospitalized came about three weeks after my diagnosis. I was extremely sick and ended up staying in the hospital about 10 days.
So many people came to see me. They brought me gifts, they played games with me. They came at night when my family couldn’t be there. They really stuck with me, even if they didn’t exactly understand what I was going through. To me, that’s all I needed. It didn’t matter that they didn’t understand what was going on.
You hear that you don’t really know who your friends are until something like this happens. It’s so true.You don’t how people are going to respond or what they’re going to say. So, it’s been extremely surprising to see the outpouring of love and kindness they’ve shown to me.
That’s been really amazing.
This condition involves a lot of stuff you don’t want to talk about—being nauseous, throwing up, going to the bathroom multiple times a day.
It’s not the kind of thing you bring up in daily conversation with your friends.
I didn’t know if I’d be able to talk about it with other people. But it’s been six years since my diagnosis and now I speak at conferences and have a website, all with a goal of educating people about inflammatory bowel disease.
There's still a lot that people don’t understand.
My advice to others with chronic conditions is that it helps to find someone you can talk to and some kind of support group, whether it’s online or in person.
Try to find the good in everything, and take joy in your small accomplishments. Learn to take care of yourself and realize when you need to stop trying to do so much.
It took me six years to get my bachelor’s degree. I was a biology major, pre-med. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I became interested in how it worked, and during my undergraduate career I got involved in research.
Now I’m finishing up my masters, and my thesis work is related to inflammatory bowel disease. So, all my research is geared towards Crohn’s disease.
I feel very blessed to be able to study it. Being able to help people with this condition is something that really drives me.