Greetings IBD Patients and GO Free"ers". My name is Bianca Hernandez and I am the founder of GO Free. I hope you read my story and find hope that through your struggle, you are able to overcome any obstacle and spread awareness and compassion about IBD to others.
Although my IBD journey has not been as complicated and challenging as others have been, I have learned to push through my struggle and create something positive and empowering out of it. So here is my story:
During June of 2015, I began experiencing symptoms such as bloody stools and the inability to use the restroom, while on a weekend vacation. Since this was not in my "normal routine," I visited my pediatrician. She told us that she believed it was a bacteria, but to visit a gastroenterologist if the problem got worse. I was never in any pain and continued to show symptoms, therefore, I did not think it was a big deal. However, I scheduled an appointment to meet with gastroenterologist, Dr. Raghad Koutouby. She ordered many different stool samples and different blood speciments.
At the end of July, my symptoms became much worse and all the tests came back negative. Dr. Koutouby scheduled me for a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. On August 6th, 2015, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. After not being able to complete my colonoscopy due to the large amount of inflammation in my colon, Dr. Koutouby had seen multiple ulcers and inflammation in my colon and rectum. Soon after, I was placed on a low dosage steroid called Uceris, Apriso, Canasa, and multiple vitamins and fish oils. Since my calprotectin levels were so high, I decided to try the GAPS Diet, to try and heal my gut. This rigourous diet consists of eating/drinking the gelatin part of the bone, once the gelatin is boiled, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After certain stages, one is able to add certain foods into the diet such as chicken, honey, and eggs. Although this diet was healing my colon, I lost weight and became very tired, due to the lack of nutrients. I dreaded walking around and would fall asleep in all of my classes. I had 0 energy and this diet was becoming very hard.
During this time in my life, I had started my junior year and had a lot on my plate. I served as my school's Junior Class President and the lead in the drama production. However, no one was aware that I had this invisible illness. Although school was stressful, the most stressful thing I had been dealing with was my sense of urgency I was not able to control. I had a very hard time controlling when I needed to use the restroom, which became very embarassing. School was one of my favorite places to attend, but being embarrassed to use the restroom prevented me from wanting to go to school. That's when my school counselor allowed for me to use the private restroom in the school, to avoid embarrassing situations and giving me the privacy to deal with my disease, whenever I needed to.
In April, I began a program called "GO" Free, which grants IBD students access to use the private restrooms in their schools while also spreading awareness and compassion for IBD students in their school communities. I have met with 12 schools this summer who will have the "GO" Free Program available in their schools this upcoming school year. Also, I have met with the University of Miami's Institute for Individual and Family Counseling Center as well as Counseling Centers throughout Miami. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for "GO" Free and my IBD journey.
Today, I am in remission. I have not had a flare up in over 3 months. I try to stay on a gluten free diet, while also avoiding corn and any lettuce. I take 4 Lialda pills, Fish Oil, Tumeric, and Vitamin D and Miralax every day. I am active and I live a normal life. I go to school, I exercise, and I enjoy weekends on the water with my family. So there is no excuse. IBD should never stop you from having a normal life. I hope you enjoyed my IBD story and I wish you a lifetime of healthy colons!
Best of health, Bianca