Imagine your childhood; you’re probably running around the neighborhood with your siblings and friends. Maybe you’re inside and playing with games and toys. Either way, your memory of your youth is happy, exciting, and hopeful.
When I imagine my childhood, I remember games played outside with my brothers, but these joyful memories are often clouded by overwhelming thoughts of stark white hospital rooms, painful needles, and foul-tasting pills.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was six years old. After a year of taking every possible medication, I had my colon removed when I was seven. For nine weeks I had an ileostomy bag, until my reversal surgery just five days after my eighth birthday.
For over a decade, my ulcerative colitis was manageable. While it was a huge part of my life, my disease only really bothered me when it would occasionally flare up. It became something I didn’t think about too deeply as it was an intrinsic part of my everyday life.
Flash forward to 2019. I started college at Auburn University, where I’m now majoring in graphic design. Unfortunately, I also started getting “flare ups” more often, and the typical medication (that would usually wipe away the flare up in less than two weeks) was no longer working. The combined stress of school and ulcerative colitis was taking a toll on my mental and physical health.
In February of 2020, I had an endoscopy that showed clear signs of inflammation. In May of 2020, my diagnosis was changed to Crohn’s disease - 13 years after my initial diagnosis. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
But, suddenly, everything made sense. My “flare up” symptoms from 2019 were much different than they were in the manageable years of ulcerative colitis, and the medication for the “flare ups” weren’t working; looking back, these “flare ups” were obviously not ulcerative colitis.
With my new diagnosis, new medication, how difficult school has been, and (of course) the pandemic, you can imagine how miserable my health has been lately. Thankfully, I have very supportive parents, John and Teri, and younger brothers, Stephen and Evan. My mom and dad have been incredible through everything, and without their help, I don’t know where I would be. I’m also thankful for my extended family, especially my Aunt Nancy, as they have always pledged their support and love.
Now imagine knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life by fundraising and raising awareness. That's why I'm so excited about being involved with Take Steps! I want to fight back against both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. I’m passionate about finding a cure because no one should live with the pain and unmanageable symptoms that I have been for months. Those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are prone to miss work and activities; they can’t eat certain foods, have chronic pain, and many other symptoms that lessen their quality of life. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is working to change all of that. I hope you will join me in fundraising for Take Steps so we can end these invisible illnesses once and for all.