“Can you see anything?” asked Lord Carnarvon.
“Yes, wonderful things,” replied Howard Carter, upon seeing King Tutankhamun’s tomb for the first time
On February 26, 2016, I attended an event at the Janssen Biotech facilities in Pennsylvania called The BioExperience. (Janssen is the company that makes IBD medication Remicade.) BioExperience. It sounds like a ride at Disney Epcot: exciting and full of potential. And actually it really was just that. Exciting and informative and something that I would never get anywhere else. I want to tell you a little about what this event was all about.
On March 9th, the IBD Social Circle held a Twitter chat to discuss pregnancy, birthing, and parenting as an IBD patient. I was the host, and Stephanie Hughes of The Stolen Colon was my co-host. Our featured gastroenterologist was Dr Edward Loftus, Jr of Mayo Clinic. It was a lively chat with lots of great information that I don’t want anyone to miss! Here are some of the best Tweets from the chat!
What is advocacy in the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) community? Even advocates don’t agree on exactly what this means, maybe because we all advocate in our own unique way.
Myself, Kelly Crabb, and Brooke Abbott at the Premiere of Ryan Stevens’ movie about his swim across Lake Erie, Courage and Crohn’s.
My advocacy started in 2000, shortly after undergoing j-pouch surgery, when I began writing the IBD topic site for About.com. The site has undergone several changes over the years, but what I’ve consistently tried to do is to provide quality, accurate information about IBD that anyone can access, for free. The site has been amazingly successful, and it has been rewarding for me both personally and professionally.
“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. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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