Being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) at any time or at any age is challenging. However, the pre-biologic era was especially difficult because of the lack of treatment options and the absence of some of the legal protections that are in place today. Danielle O’Connor tells her story of being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at a young age and how she managed her career as a special education teacher through many hospitalizations and surgeries.Continue reading
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?)
I’ve made many mistakes along my disease journey. The first, and most dangerous, was to believe that my fate was already sealed.
This post was sponsored by AbbVie Inc. Personal opinions and thoughts are my own.
Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week is December 1-7. If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, get tips from gastroenterologist Dr. Corey Siegel, a Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis expert, by visiting the online Expert Advice Tool before your next trip to the doctor’s office.
When I was 16, I was diagnosed with a disease I’d never heard of called ulcerative colitis. Approximately 700,000 people in the United States are affected by ulcerative colitis – a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation of the large intestine (colon and rectum). It is not caused by food or a contagious disease.
Those are the facts. Now, for the reality. Continue reading
Many people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) will admit to having a body image issue. The research shows that people with IBD who have a healthy self-image are in the minority. And after all, how could we not have issues with our bodies? Our bodies fail us without warning, not to mention the symptoms of IBD which are often so distressing and personally upsetting to oneself and to others.
It’s funny, now as an “over 40,” I think back on the days when I was younger and I have to laugh at my skewed sense of self. The facts that support my internal monologue on body image will surely upset those who were closest to me when I was a child and a teen. We didn’t discuss things like body image in the 70s and 80s and there wasn’t anyone who told me the things I tell my daughter, that her body is strong and beautiful and that we will do our best to take care of it.
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.
Below includes my experience of miscarriage. Please note this includes a frank discussion of pregnancy loss and medical treatment for such, as well as strong language.
I never thought I’d be writing about miscarriage. To tell the truth, I kind of don’t want to do it now. But I’ve come to realize that holding back is harmful to me, and imparts the feeling that my experiences didn’t serve any purpose. Not that everything that happens has a reason or a purpose, but I have the ability to take this part of my life and turn it into something positive.
For my part, I love it when people tell me they’ve read my writing. Especially when they don’t have IBD themselves or have a close friend or family member with the disease. While I do my best to reach people with IBD so that they have the information they need to make treatment decisions and live better, I also want to reach people who aren’t touched by IBD in order to recruit them as allies. After all, this is the very heart of awareness: people with IBD are already aware. We must reach those who have no reason to become educated about IBD, and offer them the tools to become aware.
Before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I can’t remember ever having a bowel movement. That’s how unmemorable my digestive system was. I don’t remember having diarrhea. I don’t remember being concerned about how what I ate would affect my digestion. I don’t remember ever having discomfort or even throwing up.
And So It Begins…
When I was 16, however, and starting my junior year in high school, that all changed. The blood in my stool came first. It may have been going on for some time before I even noticed it (again, I don’t ever remember thinking about stool before). When I did notice it, I had no idea what it meant. It went on for a few days before one morning I told my dad what was going on. He called out of work that morning and took me to the prompt care at the local hospital. Continue reading
I don’t know how it happened, and maybe the origins are lost to the sands of time, but someone somewhere decided that a colectomy was a cure for ulcerative colitis. This idea made it into books and pamphlets for patients, and now is taken as canon by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) advocacy groups. Recently, however, there’s been some pushback on this idea from patient advocates.
What Does This Word Mean, “Cure?”
Personally, I have never felt that “cure” was the correct word to use for the removal of the colon. For people with ulcerative colitis, removing the colon may signal the end of some symptoms, including inflammation, fever, diarrhea, and pain. Without a colon, there are several options available for the solution to the question of “how does one poop?” The most popular one is a j-pouch, whereby a pouch shaped like a “j” is created from the terminal ileum, and sewn onto the rectum. Continue reading