A few years ago, I wrote this as a response to a prompt that I can no longer find. Maybe the prompt was on courage? I told Dan about it before I shared it with a few friends. “It’s a little smug,” I said. “It sounds inspiring,” he replied. I’ve updated it slightly since then.
I have Crohn’s Disease. For the uninitiated, Crohn’s is an autoimmune disorder that results in the inflammation of the digestive system. For me, that means that my ileum (in the small intestine) is fucked up.
I was seven when I started getting sick. I had always been a thin kid, but a healthy and normal weight. I started losing weight. My pallor was washed out. My thick hair was falling out. I had no energy. I had no appetite. My stomach hurt all the time. If I wasn’t throwing up, I was having diarrhea. I ran a fever all too often.
After several unsuccessful trips to the doctor, when I always felt fine and never showed a fever, my mom kept a journal for two weeks of every single complaint I had and symptom I exhibited. We went to the doctor again. This time, he suggested I see a pediatric gastroenterologist to test me for Crohn’s Disease.
Two trips to Augusta, GA (Greenwood didn’t have a pediatric gastroenterologist), and two full mornings of tests, the diagnosis was clear. I had Crohn’s Disease. Based on my body’s deterioration, I had probably gone undiagnosed 2-3 years. Luckily my Crohn’s was caught just in time. A few weeks more without treatment, and I would have ended up hospitalized.
Thus began a new life of daily pills, and uncontrollable weight gains and weight losses, and a monitored diet, and regular doctor visits, and a suppressed immune system, and school absences, and stomach pain, and fatigue, and fears about infertility, and a second job for health insurance for 10 months, and health insurance battles, and secondary infections, and so many diagnostic tests.
Having Crohn’s isn’t easy, but it’s practically the only life I know. This has been an everyday part of my life since childhood. I’m pretty blase about it for a reason.
Yes, I'm the kind of person who does yoga during a walk in the park! Having Crohn's Disease has taught me to live life to the fullest, no matter my body's current size. Yoga inspires me to #BelieveInMovement, even if my chronic illness limits how vigorously I can workout. Luckily @IdeologyActive supports me at every size along my Crohn's journey and reminds me to embrace #BodyPositivity. You can pick up their fitness apparel exclusively at Macy's. What is your body positivity story? #LaBelleBlog AD
Was being hospitalized in D.C. while en route to Paris scary? Yes.
Did I feel guilty when Dan missed his friend’s car race because my stomach hurt too much to move, so he took me home instead? Yes.
Have I visited the doctor about a dozen times since May? Yes.
Has my Crohn’s kept me from living my life to the fullest? Hell no.
I try to own up to my privilege whenever possible. I know most of my accomplishments are at least partly due to supportive parents in an upper-middle class household. But most of my friends have supportive parents in an upper-middle class household. Most of us are pretty similar in regards to class privilege.
Many of my friends have done amazing things with their lives. I hang out with lawyers and professors and engineers, many of whom run marathons for fun or are raising families. But the vast majority of my friends are able-bodied. They’ve been predominantly healthy while kicking ass and taking names. I haven’t.
I danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ve worked in two foreign countries. I speak a second language. I’m in a documentary, and I’ve made several television appearances. My writing has gone viral.
I did all of that while managing an incurable illness that can leave me exhausted for an inexplicable reason, or cause me to be incapacitated with pain, or force me to run to the loo for long periods of time every hour.
We all have our lot in life. We all have our own unique challenges to face. I’m not special because I have Crohn’s Disease. I’m not special because of anything I’ve done in my life.
However, I am special because I’ve never let my illness stop me from fulfilling all my dreams, and I never will.
What challenges have you faced in your life? How did you overcome them to pursue your own goals?