IBD (General)

Libby’s Story: Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week 2022

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Libby is a 19 year old from New Zealand, living with pan-ulcerative colitis. This awareness week she shares a story and an important message with us.

One minute I was fine. The next minute I was crying.

Would I make it in time?

Driving to university running slightly later than planned (as it had been one of those mornings where my body wasn’t keen on me leaving the house), I was recovering from a cold, listening to music wary of the time. My first class was a practical nursing session which you couldn’t be late for.

But I was okay, since I had done one of the hardest parts – leaving the house -right? That’s what I had hoped.

My joints had the normal morning aches but for some reason my body suddenly began to overwhelm me. The joint pain, nausea, remaining cold symptoms and fatigue, along with my heart which was starting to pound and my gut joining the party with an ache of discomfort, signalled that I needed to poo.

Crawling through the morning traffic I began sobbing, this just wasn’t fair.

 I had already been to the toilet multiple times that morning and I thought remission was meant to be symptomless. Newsflash: it often isn’t.

My hands alternated between squeezing and then whacking the steering wheel. Was this going to be the first time I didn’t make it to the toilet when away from home? What would I do? How would I handle it? All at once (us females are well known for our multitasking abilities) I was driving, sobbing, and praying to Jesus to help calm me down and make it to uni before anything happened. So deep breaths were my next strategy to try.

If I could reduce the stress, it would increase my chances of holding on and making it. Plus, if I stopped crying now, my eyes wouldn’t give anything away to my classmates or lecturers. I arrived at uni and not only made it to the toilet but was just in time for class and managed to remember to pay for parking too. Shundy mundy, the adrenaline rush aye! 

To treat myself for making it through the morning, I bought myself a hot chocolate when studying between classes, it was ten o’clock and I was already pooped (literally and figuratively). Although I was glad no one knew about my tough morning, I really wanted a hug from someone who cared and understood without needing too much of an explanation. I didn’t get my hug but after studying for a bit, I exchanged some messages with my lovely mum (whose mum powers had sensed something was a bit off that morning) and then I was absolutely delighted when an email popped up on my phone from my specialist IBD nurse, who always makes me feel like everything is going to be ok. In part of her email, she mentioned how she smiles when my name flicks up in her inbox and she even asked me what’s new in ‘Libby-land’. Honestly, she is such a classy woman, even when she uses her poo-lingo!

Although it was a tough morning in the grand scheme of things, it is tough occasions like these that teach me how you can never know what’s really going on in someone’s morning, let alone day, week or life. It’s drawn me to fall in love with the warmth of a hot chocolate and those classy messages, emails that make my day better, smiles, and mum-senses that give me the boost I need to get through the day. At the same time, this morning reassured me further that it’s ok to say ‘hey I’m 19, my body is misbehaving despite remission, and it sucks!’ And that it’s ok to have a cry and feel just a tad stressed even over the most minor of symptoms, even when you do make it to the toilet.

Lastly, I’m learning to be proud of myself, to validate my physical and emotional experiences as although my enthusiastic immune system is a bit much, I’ve got an amazing God who is using it to grow me into a pretty cool person and hopefully a great nurse too (not

 to toot my own horn or anything).

What does Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week mean to me?

It means being given permission to talk about crohn’s and colitis. It affects most of us 24/7 and yet often we feel guilty if we talk about it too much or even a little bit. Having an awareness week gives us the chance to talk openly without guilt and encourage each other. Awareness also provides validation, community and reliable information which helps remove stereotypes. Personally, for me I love having a reason to educate the people around me about crohn’s and colitis. It gives me more confidence and lessens the embarrassment which empowers me to live my life to the fullest!

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