Author Archives: ambert

Sam And Frodo And The Importance Of Support

“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”
“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.
“But I am going to Mordor.”
“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo, Sam, Gollum in Emyn Muil

Frodo, Sam, and Gollum (who was also suffering from being under the spell of The One Ring) in Emyn Muil, on their way to Mount Doom to destroy the ring in the fires there.
© Tomasz Steifer, Gdansk, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Do you feel supported in your daily life, as you navigate your way through your diagnosis of IBD? Support can come in many forms, and you probably have several sources of support, but I think it’s probably rather rare to feel supported all the time.

In The Lord Of The Rings, Frodo the Hobbit is charged with carrying The One Ring. The One Ring, which looks like a simple gold ring, is infused with evil power, and it poisons Frodo in body, mind, and spirit. Frodo’s friend and companion is Samwise, who travels with Frodo to destroy The One Ring before it can fall into the wrong hands. Frodo becomes increasingly unstable during their journey — obsessed with The Ring and, in the end, unable to even walk. Sam carries him. Continue reading

My IBD Guilt

I’m not exactly sure what to call this feeling, so for a lack of a better phrase, I’m calling it “IBD survivor’s guilt.” This is not to take away from people who have lived through an actual horrific event, and have true survivor’s guilt. This is clearly not even close to being the same thing. But I think I’m probably not alone in this yet-unnamed feeling in the IBD community.

word cloud

How do we cope with this grief? I don’t have any great answers. I just deal with it like I do any other emotion connected to IBD.

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There Are No Pictures Of Me

Amber as a baby

Aww. I’m a baby. Why am I holding a football? No idea. This would have been mid-70s, as evidenced by the green velour couch. It was a super comfortable couch, let me tell you. Great for building forts, too.

At the risk of sounding aged and out-of-touch, daily life was much different when I was diagnosed and even 10 years later when I had my j-pouch surgeries. No smart phones. No Internet. No digital photos. Most people didn’t have computers. A lot of people didn’t own cameras.

This is why there are no pictures of me. There are no photos of me battling ulcerative colitis in my hospital bed. No photos of my stoma. My wasted, 89 pound body. The skin peeling off the bottom of my feet. The blood transfusion. The voluminous amounts of gelatin I ate when my body could tolerate nothing else. There are no images of these things. We didn’t take pictures of them, and truthfully I can’t even remember if I owned a camera, or if anyone in my family did. Continue reading

GoodBelly Smiles At Me Every Morning

Recently the folks at GoodBelly contacted me and asked me if I’d like to try some of their products. Of course I wanted to try it — I’d seen it in the grocery store and had just never gotten around to giving it a try. I told them I’d be happy to try GoodBelly and they sent me some of their products.

I thought I’d try them and see how they were. I try new products all the time, but I don’t write about them unless I like them. I was not so surprised to find that I liked GoodBelly myself, but I was a bit surprised at the reaction amongst my family and friends.

GoodBelly Plus

Look how cute this is! Isn’t that just what you need in the morning? And it tastes great, too!

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Do I Ever Run Out Of Ideas?

MyWriting Routine*

Everyone has their routine, right? So, I don’t do this each and every time I sit down to write, but it’s a pretty fair description of how most days go. I have to clean my desk off and I have to get coffee, but other things are subject to change.

Frank Garufi Jr of The Crohn’s Colitis Effect asked me a question that I actually get asked all the time, so I felt it was worthwhile to answer in writing.

“Don’t you run out of ideas to write about?’

And actually, no, I don’t. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t topics that I drag my feet on writing, or that I don’t have the resources to write at a particular time. But I never actually run out of ideas.

There are times I’m tired of writing. There are times that a particular topic is so personal that I can’t seem to get it out of my brain and into my computer. There are times when I just can’t find enough sources to write about a topic intelligently. But there are never times that I don’t actually have any ideas.

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Should IBD Patients Look To Mouse Studies For Hope?

Mouse In A Cage

Aww, the poor mice. Mice studies are important because they are a first step. But they’re just that — preliminary results that may or may not lead to something meaningful for patients.

I often make a joke that when I see a study done on mice or rats my eyes glaze over and I move on. I don’t, really, of course. I read them and will watch future research to see how things pan out, and if more study moves the knowledge further and leads to anything significant.

However, I don’t usually write up a summary or include it in an article as a reference. This is because I’ve learned that most people aren’t interested in reading about mice studies.

The other reason that I don’t often report on them is because they often don’t lead to anything. The mainstream media, however, often gloms on to these stories as if they’re going to change everything for patients. But they don’t, at least, they won’t for a long time. Continue reading

What’s It Like To Go To A Medical Conference?

Digestive Disease Week 2014

Members of the IBD Social Circle, Janssen Biotech, Tonic Life Communications, and gastroenterologists meeting at Digestive Disease Week 2014. I’m in the first row, fourth from the right. Everyone in this photo is an amazing IBD advocate, and I am privileged to have met them and worked with them.

Patients don’t typically get invited to medical conferences. However we are entering a new age of the “patient expert” — highly motivated patients who not only learn more about their disease for themselves, but share their knowledge with others.

In 2014, I was privileged to be invited to attend Digestive Disease Week in Chicago, and Advances in IBD in Orlando, courtesy of Janssen Biotech.

Attending a medical conference, for me, was both thrilling and terrifying, in equal measures. Continue reading

The Dangers of “Too Much” Advocacy

Rope Bridge

The way forward looks treacherous. But we must work together to find our way across.
Image © Sean Kearney

I had a recent revelation as I was planning an event for a group I volunteer with for one of my children. I am a volunteer, as so many parents are, and I spend a fair amount of time working with other parents and within the community to plan fun and educational events for our kids. But I am beginning to wonder if this is the best use of my time and if it’s providing the best experience for my children. And then it hit me – my thoughts were directly related to advocacy for chronic illness. Continue reading

I Write About Bowel Disease. What Of It?

Every so often when I tell someone what I do (writing about digestive disease) I get some curious responses, usually with a barely restrained sneer. “Wow, is there really a need for that?” “How could that be something that you need to keep writing about?” “Is that something that people are interested in?”

Nice Poop

You bet I’ve said this. I’m glad to see a healthy poop from my offspring.

And my answers are: yes, yes, and yes.

My standard response is this: “If you have a digestive problem, you are going to be very glad that there is someone available to you who has studied the digestive system, and can help you.”

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My High School Teachers And My IBD

Amber And Her Father

Graduation day! That’s me and my dad, who passed away in 1998. Helloooo prednisone moon face on me.

After my first colonoscopy and my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, I spent about 40 days in the hospital. I was a junior in high school, so that whole situation had to be dealt with. Thankfully I was a good student, and when it was time to deal with homework and missing class, I was able to cope with much of it.

I had great teachers in high school — for the most part. Continue reading