As every college senior does, either from parental pressuring or sheer steadfast ambition, I began planning out my idea of my quintessential career and future life, which was almost in arm's reach. Well, the irony is not lost on me that the day I walked across the stage at Louisiana State University, shook hands with the Dean of my college, somehow managed to descend the stage's stairs, then collapsed from sheer fatigue and malnutrition.
All my family and friends who had planned a celebration post-ceremony had to congratulate me in the ER, because that's where I ended up - and where my story with Crohn's began. I have spent a majority of the past 17 years either in a hospital or in my bed. Either the disease itself, my 4 colon re-sections, 4 blood transfusions, 2 fistula drains, full hysterectomy, or insane side effects from my medications have kept me sidelined in life.
I felt guilty for bringing 2 wonderful girls into this world when I barely had the energy to do small things like bathe them, much less bathe myself, on most nights. It wasn't until I made a life-changing visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and was informed about Entyvio and also had (still do) a temporary ostomy surgery that I had finally had a taste of remission and could fully enjoy motherhood.
I finally realized if I did not get my non-functioning tush (well, rectum, to be accurate) off of the bed and out of the house, my mental health would soon be in equal jeopardy as my physical health. That is why and how I have arrived at my present state: traveling around the nation as a Patient Advocate for Entyvio, joining the Foundation on Capitol Hill to speak to government officials, and unapologetic-ally divulging every horror and embarrassments I have experienced on this journey.
After what I consider an absurd amount of surgeries for any patient to experience at the age of 37, I am left with a measly ten centimeters of my lower intestines. It would be fair to say that I do not have guts. But what I am doing about it so that other patients may avoid the pain I have experienced, takes a whole lot of guts!