Many young people who are undergoing ileostomy surgery to treat Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis have never met another younger person with an ostomy. Gaylyn Henderson, founder of Gutless and Glamorous, wants to make sure that people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) don’t experience the uncertainty and stigma that she encountered before her ostomy surgery. In between running a successful foundation and a support group for people with chronic illness, Gaylyn has also become a spokeswoman for people with an ostomy, proving that her ileostomy is not a barrier to success.
People who live with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis experience stigma because of their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The taboo topic of bowel disease can permeate all aspects of a person’s life, especially when there are cultural influences also at play. Tina Aswani Omprakash, who lives with Crohn’s disease and a permanent ileostomy, shares her story of personal empowerment and how she is working to help other people with IBD live their lives with confidence. Tina describes how IBD has profoundly affected her family as well as why she decided to become an outspoken advocate for the IBD and ostomy communities and start her blog, Own Your Crohn’s.
How does IBD affect your family? Do you know about the tools and resources that are available to help you on your disease journey? On this episode of About IBD, I talk with the Director of Patient Education and Support at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Catherine Soto, who outlines the many tools the Foundation provides for anyone with IBD, including those made just for parents, kids, and teens. I also spoke with Dr Rajeev Jain, who tells me about a new, one-of-a-kind resource for women with IBD who want to be mothers, called the IBD Parenthood Project. And finally I called upon Brooke Abbott, co-founder of IBD Moms, to talk about her role as a patient in developing the IBD Parenthood Project, and she entertains me with a small rant about social media.
It’s common for people with IBD to look online for patients who have a similar disease journey to their own. For men, however, there are fewer places to find such a peer because there are not as many men in the IBD influencer space as there are women. That’s where Rasheed Clarke, author of Three Tablets Twice Daily, blogger, and ulcerative colitis and j-pouch patient steps in. Hear Rasheed contrast how his running career is different before and after j-pouch surgery, his thoughts on being one of the few male voices in the online IBD community, how we can encourage more men to share their journey, and the wild and wonderful thing he did with a toilet for World IBD Day in 2017.
What compels a person to share their personal journey with IBD? For Rasheed Clarke, author of Three Tablets Twice Daily, his writing began as a way to keep track of everything for himself and his healthcare team. It quickly turned into a tool that he used to show those around him the stark realities of a life with IBD: bloody diarrhea and all. His coworkers and friends were shocked to learn how much he was coping with every day but not everyone close to him approved of his honesty. On this episode of About IBD, Rasheed digs into the positives, the negatives, and the responsibilities that come with being an influencer in the IBD space.
What is the microbiome, how might it be connected to IBD and other conditions, and how can it affect health when it’s pushed out of balance? Dr Sarina Pasricha of the Christiana Care Health System gives me the scoop on how the microbiome is created when we are young and how it changes with our activities and diet, as well as why we should not try fecal transplants at home, and how a little bit of dirt is good for our kids.
The internet runs on advertising, which means that editors and writers are often tasked with getting the most possible eyeballs on their story. That can mean that there’s pressure to write a controversial or sensational headline to get those clicks. In this episode, I invite veteran medical writer and university instructor, Shereen Lehman, to weigh in and tell you how to figure out if a story about IBD is good reporting — or if it’s crap.
Even when you’re knowledgeable about IBD, it can still sneak up on you and skew your perception of how much control the disease has over your life. Angelica Catalano, Director of Media Partnerships at The Mighty, describes how ulcerative colitis has affected her since her diagnosis at the age of 6, and how she was living with symptoms on a daily basis. Emergency surgery shook her world, prompting her to make a change in her treatment program to prevent future IBD-related complications. Through her work at The Mighty, Angelica pursues her passion of helping people with chronic illness improve their quality of life by bringing them together with the nonprofits that provide support and resources.
What have you done when you couldn’t get anyone to take the symptoms of IBD seriously and you found yourself out of options? For Meredith, the road to a Crohn’s disease diagnosis was long and so frustrating that she wound up pleading for help from a specialist she’d never met. Going online to connect with other patients also took Meredith to places both light and dark, and she, Jaime, and I sort through our various experiences with social media as well as how we can work towards creating more hopeful content for new IBD patients in the future.
Is it possible to take the diagnosis that turned your world upside down and turn it into a positive force in your life? My guest on About IBD is Lilly Stairs, Head of Patient Advocacy at Clara Health who lives with Crohn’s disease did exactly that. First diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, it was only after Lilly’s symptoms weren’t improving and she was in and out of the hospital that healthcare providers finally discovered a Crohn’s disease flare-up in her small bowel. Lilly found the right mix of treatments to get her Crohn’s under control and now works with her team at Clara to connect patients to clinical trials.