It was four years ago that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease – easily the most harrowing news I have ever been given. The second the doctor confirmed the diagnosis I saw my whole life collapsing right in front of my eyes, as she recommended courses of IV steroids and Azathioprine and Pentasa and Asacol.
I had been ill my whole life with symptoms I had unknowingly received through my Crohn’s, but it was only when I was just turning 15 that my health really started to deteriorate. I would wake up each morning with large clumps of my own hair surrounding me, with the skin on my stomach and neck turning to scar tissue as my psoriasis flared. I couldn’t move some days due to the pain in my back, the mysterious bruises on my knees, and most of all, the agony I would get with my stomach.
When you are diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, you are told that your digestive system will malfunction and attack itself for pretty much your whole life. For some, it is controllable with mere medication, but for others it can take hundreds of surgeries for them to still find no relief.
I found myself homeschooled several months before my diagnosis, simply due to the fact that I couldn’t even get to my school. The journey consisted of a 20-minute train ride, which was far too long for my bowels to cope with. It was embarrassing, and I hated myself for being so different to my peers.
After spending years figuring out what I can do to take care of myself, I now feel relieved to have finally found a way to stay well. Now, I control my disease with a handful of maintenance drugs, a diet where I stay clear from my triggers, and a lifestyle where I have to do a certain amount of exercise each day (sedentary days tend to set me off) and be extra careful with my mental health (any stress will send the problems with my stomach straight into overdrive). Finally, my illness is manageable.
University is hard, because I have such a long list of things I can’t do. I spend each day following a set regime to keep my health as strong as it can be, and have to miss out on a lot of activities and events simply because I know some of them will make me ill. It can be exceedingly constrictive, but four years later I know enough about my disease to know that if I don’t keep it under control, I will immediately find my digestive system flaring with inflammation, and have to be hospitalised.
I have to be careful in everything I do, but am incredibly glad that I can control my illness the way I can. Crohn’s Disease is definitely a full-time job, but in no way should it stop anyone from walking out that door and living their life. After all, at the end of the day it really is all just shits and giggles.