How young is “too young” to get kids involved in activism? Gastroenterologist and activist Dr Meenakshi Bewtra started her kids on their activism journey at birth and continues by bringing them to marches, voter registration events, and postcard writing parties. Dr Bewtra shares her tips on how you can involve your kids in activism, why you should, and how it might make your life as a parent — and activist — a bit easier.
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.
As people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it is important that we share our stories. We need to share in order to bring awareness of our disease amongst the public but also to other people who live with the disease. IBD is isolating but there is a thriving community that’s willing to share information and support in order to prevent anyone from feeling alone in their disease.
However. I have concerns.
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.
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.
With an invisible illness such as IBD, it can be challenging to protect your quality of life. Patient influencers often push themselves in the service of others and that may seem strange to those that follow along on social media. How can someone be so sick and yet be able to attend a medical conference? Sara Ringer of Inflamed and Untamed explains how what you see online can be misleading and how she manages two difficult digestive diseases, all while striving to live a fulfilling life that includes being a resource for other patients seeking information and support.
You’ve seen the posts: “Click like” or “Retweet” to vote! An interaction with a post is a “vote” and after a certain amount of time the “votes” are tallied and a winner is declared. Magazines may use this type of crowdsourcing to decide their “best restaurants” or a photography web site may use it to choose a “cutest baby” photo.
I’ve been online, running web sites for myself and for others, since 1996 and this type of popularity contest is nothing new. It’s never going to go away because it’s inherent in our culture. It might be something we have to accept, up to a point. However, I take issue with using this type of “voting” for where we are now: choosing a “best” person from the online chronic illness community. Continue reading
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.
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
Over the past few months I’ve seen a strange turn in social media, and not one that I’d like to see continue. There are many dedicated IBD advocates on Twitter and Facebook, most of whom are putting their personal stories front and center in order to bring more awareness about IBD. Being open and honest about something so personal as one’s health is courageous, and for the most part, we stand together to help the newly diagnosed and the uninitiated learn more about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
However, there is something going on that disturbs me deeply: the “I’m sicker than you” game, or what I’ve come to call “Crohn’s porn.” Continue reading