This week (December 1-7) is National Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, so I wanted to join in the fight to raise awareness about IBD. I know first hand that it is not the most pleasant topic to bring up with family and friends, but it is important that we are honest about our symptoms.
First things first, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract, and includes Chron’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
IBD is often confused with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but the two are very different. IBS causes gas, cramping, abdominal pain and diarrhea. I do not want to make light of IBS, because for those who experience it can be seriously painful and uncomfortable, but it does not have the damaging ulcers and inflammation found with IBD.
I have UC, but I do not speak for all with the disease because each case it different. Some can be treated successfully with medication, but others (like me) result in surgery (which is the only ‘cure’ for UC). My person experience with the disease can be summed up like this: When my UC was most active, or in the midst of a flare, I would have bloody diarrhea between 20 and 30 times a day. Sometimes I thought I would “bleed out” because my diarrhea was so severe. On top of that it felt as if I was pushing shards of glass through my intestines with each trip to the bathroom.
I get why some people with Crohn’s and UC don’t want to go into detail about the symptoms (it’s embarrassing), but unless we talk about the seriousness of IBD, the outside world won’t understand.
I know that I did the UC community, and myself, a disservice by not talking about my disease in the past. Since I have opened up I have met others who are experiencing the same struggles, both physically and emotionally, that I have been through. Also, I have gotten such an amazing outpouring of love and support from everyone. This has made it easier to talk about and has taken away the power that IBD had over my life.