I recently came across a statistic from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation that struck a chord with me. That statistic being that each day, approximately 190 people hear the words “You have Crohn’s disease” or “You have ulcerative colitis.” Wow. Let that sink in for a moment. That means each year 69,350 people join our IBD family. Take a moment to think back to how you felt when you heard those words come out of the doctor’s mouth for the first time.
Those words are lifechanging. Those words shake you to your core. Those words forever change you. Once you are told this, there is no turning back. From that point forward it’s an uphill battle with unseen obstacles along the way. It’s heartbreaking to think of how many people wake up one day not having an answer, and how many then go to bed with a label that they will wear invisibly for the rest of their lives.
It seems for many who don’t battle inflammatory bowel disease or who don’t know much about it, that Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis aren’t that serious or that big of a deal. The majority of people I know never ask me how I’m feeling or inquire about how the battle is going. I have to bring it up 90 percent of the time. In some ways I welcome that, other times it’s a bit disconcerting.
Yes, my quality of life for the most part is similar to most people…but, I can tell you in the last week I had three rough days. Days where I couldn’t even stand up straight while I was home alone caring for my son. Days where I had to put my son down mid-feeding so I could make a run for the bathroom. Days where I turned to the bottle of Tylenol with Codeine on my nightstand and had to pop a pill so I could get some rest from the pain. By my outward appearance and what I share on social media you would never know this.
For those who have just been told they too have inflammatory bowel disease, my heart goes out to you. The journey you are about to embark on is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. The really terrible times when you’re in the hospital fighting a dreadful flare will end up being the moments that make you stronger than you knew possible. The days when you are feeling fantastic and your disease seems to be in hibernation will be absolutely glorious. Celebrate those moments and know the next time you’re facing surgery or unable to eat without pain that those incredible feel-good days will visit you again.
Have patience with yourself every step of the way. It’s ok to feel angry and wonder why me…but there will come a point where you will think…why not me? You were given this disease because you are strong enough to handle it. Use your hardships to inspire and help others. Use your experiences to show compassion and empathy. And most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out others who understand what it’s like to hear those words, “You have Crohn’s disease.”