The avatar for the program is customizable (it looks like me, right?) and it changes based on the challenges. Feeling poorly (looking green), sweating (experiencing a sign or symptom), and blushing (feeling embarrassment) are all situations that are experienced during the simulation
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company contacted me and offered me the opportunity to participate in a program that they’d developed which simulates the experience of having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The program was being used internally to help Takeda employees understand IBD better and was now being rolled out to participants outside the company. IBD is an exceptionally isolating disease and research shows that it is associated with a high degree of stigma in the public perception.
I was immediately intrigued with the prospect of this program: my first thought was that I couldn’t imagine what this might look like. My second thought was that it sounded like an innovation that could change how participants view IBD and impact their work as health care professionals, industry representatives, and legislators. The program is called “In Their Shoes,” and the full session takes 2 days, but I participated in an abbreviated, 3-hour variant.
Recently, during an interview, I was asked to talk about what I couldn’t do because of my IBD or my j-pouch. I may have visibly bristled at the question, though I tried to mask this initial negative reaction. I did think about how to formulate an answer–probably for a good solid minute. In the end, I couldn’t come up with anything.
The interviewer made a few suggestions, but they were things that I don’t dwell on, such as dietary restrictions. Having some dietary restrictions is not something I think about often. I can absolutely still eat all kinds of healthy food as well as not so healthy, yet tasty, food like chocolate, and also have a cocktail. I no longer see food as an obstacle or a problem, because I’ve worked out my diet and I pretty much stick with what I know at this point. Therefore, this is not something I ruminate about or concern myself with too much.
Did you know that more than 70% of people with IBD have reported bathroom accidents (fecal incontinence)? Did you also know that only around 20% ask for help from their physicians? It’s a sensitive topic, to be sure, which is why I offer advice on how to cope with this problem and how to avoid it in the first place. If you’re struggling with this issue I have tips that you can use today but the best advice is to talk to your doctor about it (and I discuss that also!).
How does stress affect IBD? We know that stress does not cause IBD, but it does affect the disease. How does IBD actually cause stress, and what can we do to balance our lives in such a way that it does not affect us in a negative way? I talk with my guest, Dr Taft, about how she advises patients with chronic diseases on relieving stress and the tips and tools that have worked for her and her patients in integrating a comprehensive stress relief program into daily life.