Working with our local elected officials is important to having our voices heard. But attending local town hall meetings held by state or federal congressional representatives is daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. Shawntel Bethea of Chronically Strong describes her journey from sending an email to asking for support from her Congresswoman at a meeting in her district. She gives her tips on how you can make an impact in your community for people living with IBD.
For this first episode of my limited series, Summer of Activism, I’m answering a question that I hear regularly: how it is that I go to medical meetings such as Digestive Disease Week, Advances in IBD, or Crohn’s and Colitis Congress. I give you the answer as well as tips on how patients, bloggers, podcasters, and vloggers can work towards attending these, and other, scientific meetings. Here’s a spoiler: it takes dedication to improving the lives of people with IBD, commitment to doing the work consistently, and some professional networking.
What’s new in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treatments and what’s next on the horizon? Dr Peter Higgins, a gastroenterologist, IBD specialist, and researcher at the University of Michigan discusses what’s new in IBD from the Crohn’s and Colitis Congress meeting in 2019. We talk fecal transplants, healing strictures in the intestines, and the feasibility of custom ostomy products. It’s a conversation about cutting edge research on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis mixed with the practicality of using these treatments in the real world.
Does having IBD make you feel like a princess? Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are not only painful, serious conditions, but they also carry stigma which leads to patients feeling isolated. Sophia Vicari, the founder of The Princess Promise, is creating a community that challenges the perception society has about digestive disease. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis while in college, it didn’t take long before Sophia decided she needed to work to help others in the IBD community become more comfortable talking about poop. Hear Sophia’s disease journey, what it was like for her to be Miss Camden County, NJ, while living with ulcerative colitis, and how she plans to help women with IBD find their inner princess.
Every person that lives with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis in the United States knows the challenges of dealing with health insurance companies. Denials of service are common, particularly when diagnostic tests are ordered or when a new drug is prescribed. A change in insurance carrier, which can come after a life event (such as getting married or changing jobs) or at the start of the calendar year is another time when patients may find themselves in the appeal process in order to get needed tests or medication. For Jaime Holland, a life change, an insurance change, a calendar year change, and a change in gastroenterologist culminated in her being in danger of not receiving her biologic medication on time. Hear Jaime tell the story of how the problem started, why she had to look to someone outside her physicians office and her insurance carrier to get it solved, and her tips to help you avoid similar insurance snafus. This episode is perfect not only for anyone living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) but also anyone who cares for those living with these diseases.
This year I attended the annual “Day on the Hill” with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (the Foundation) in Washington, DC. It’s a two-day advocacy event where people who have been touched by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), either as patients, caregivers, or healthcare professionals, meet with legislators and/or their staff.
That’s the postcard version: but let’s break this down so it makes more sense.
Living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may have a significant affect on intimate relationships. The reasons for this are as individual as we are but can include pain, fatigue, medication side effects, and problems with body image. Kait Scalisi, an NYC-based sex educator who founded Passion by Kait, has devoted her professional life to helping women and couples learn to reconnect with themselves and their partner in order to enhance intimacy and reconnect with pleasure. Kait lives with Crohn’s disease and ankylosing spondylitis, and therefore has a deep understanding of how chronic conditions can affect intimate relationships (both with oneself and with a partner). Hear Kait’s Crohn’s disease journey and learn how she helps people find their way back to enjoying their spark, both in the bedroom and outside of it.
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.
I was fortunate to see The Matrix on its first run in theaters when it came out on March 31, 1999. We knew little about the movie at the time, just that it was science fiction and it looked amazing and that we would want to see it on the big screen and not later on VHS (DVD was not yet mainstream). The movie came out only a few weeks after my first of two surgeries to create my j-pouch (or IPAA, ileal pouch-anal anastomosis) to treat ulcerative colitis (which is one form of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD).
I love The Matrix, and how could I not? It contains so many narrative aspects I enjoy, including science fiction, robots taking over the world, an unconventionally beautiful and lethal female character, and a kick-ass soundtrack. To be honest, there are a lot of things about the plot that don’t hold up to serious scrutiny. But that’s fine, it is still amazing and undeniably groundbreaking in both storytelling and technical aspects.
When The Matrix opens, the watcher has no idea what is going on. This is my favorite way to be pulled into a story: absolutely cold, with no frame of reference. There’s no exposition and the narrative plunks you right into this universe that works differently than the one you know. You have to make a decision right then and there, if you are all in and if you’re ready for the filmmakers to take you on the ride and teach you about their world. For me, it was my first time being out of the house and enjoying myself after having surgery, and I was so ready.
(Mild spoilers for The Matrix are contained in this article, so if you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it lately, go watch it now. I mean, how can you exist in the world and understand what other people talk about without having seen it?)