Before I Got Sick

Before I Got Sick

The following is a piece that would simply not exist without the knowledge you have all given to me. I dedicate these words to all of the generous souls who have let me inside of their personal worlds. On the good days… and on the worst days of their lives. This is my love letter to all of the people who have made an impact on my personal journey.

Before I got sick

I didn’t understand what health was. I had no idea what Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis was. I took what I had for granted – I never knew any different. “Health is never valued until sickness comes.” It’s true. Until you get an eye-opening experience or diagnosis, you tend to take things for granted.

I didn’t know what the word “remission” meant, other than remission from cancer. But Remission is real. I capitalize Remission because it is just as more important as any disease. But remission is REAL, and people experience it. I will, too.

I could spend the night at someone else’s house without worrying I would wake up in a panic, sick to my stomach.

I never had to worry about pulling over on the highway puking my guts out or keep an empty grocery bag handy in case I can’t stop going 70mph on the highway, but such is life living with GI diseases.

I didn’t feel guilty about canceling plans.

I had no idea there was a thing called “moonface”.

I could run competitively but chose not to. Looking back, I’m upset with myself that I was not more health-conscious. I’m aware I didn’t do this to myself, but after I put my health (or lack of) into perspective, it was clear that I wasn’t doing what I was capable of doing.

I had no excuse not to eat my vegetables. Now that I have IBD, it’s not even a choice.

I didn’t have to depend on people: my doctors, my parents, my support system. Helplessness sucks. I now depend on doctors offices, medications, and visits to the ER to keep me out of surgeries. To keep me alive.

I didn’t know I would have such terrible luck with incontinence at a young age.

I had no idea my future would be in the care of others. On my journey to wellness, I discovered my heart was in helping others.

I didn’t know how much fight I had in me.

I never asked for help. Luckily, and thank god, I have a support system that knows when I do need help and they go out of their way to help me with daily tasks I’m not always able to do myself.

I didn’t know what real friends were. Anyone with a chronic illness has a certain “you learn who your friends are” opinion.

I didn’t know that I would like take a form of chemotherapy the rest of my life. Before I got sick, I didn’t know that chemo was used for anything else other than cancer.

BUT..

Because I have Crohn’s disease

I have a backbone. I have a say in my treatment. I have learned what it means to be an advocate for myself and give others the tools required to become their own as well.

I am educated. I loved learning about epidemiology in college, looking at the intestinal lining underneath a microscope, memorizing all of the medical terminology. It’s something I could relate to in a time when I didn’t relate to much around me.

It took all of me to get through 5 years of college, but 2 degrees later, here I am. Despite all of the setbacks, IVs, injections, hospitalizations, and a surgery in my sophomore year.

I treat my good days like gold. I max them out when they happen. Because I have IBD, I know what a bad day can be.

I am a virtual roadmap to the nearest restroom at all times.

I have learned to treasure [uninterrupted] sleep. As a kid, I never slept. as an adult, I envy others who are able to sleep “regularly” in an unhealthy way.

I believe in the healing power of pet therapy.

I’m motivated by the smallest challenges in my everyday life.

I smile more. Generally, im 300% happier after accepting struggles and claiming small victories that may just be making it up a set of stairs successfully with no injuries!

Setbacks can be a slingshot forward.

I have the ability to help others struggling with IBD around the world.

I hold family tighter.

I matured faster than those around me in certain aspects of my life. I will likely be a child for the rest of my life in many ways, as sometimes it helps to cope living freely, lightly, and with child-like humor. Sometimes, it’s fun to be a kid and feel disease-free again.

I love my body more today than I did yesterday. I see scars and stretch marks and reflect on the milestones that have made up my life.

I have to be selfish at times because I know no one else will do that for me. I have to advocate for myself to ensure my voice is heard whether it has to do with my course of treatment or educating others when they ask me about IBD.

I have twice the amount of determination and perseverance to juggle my daily workload, to complete half-marathons, to beat my disease.

Truth be told, before I was diagnosed with anything, I didn’t have much perspective on life. I’ve been through some unfortunate setbacks living with autoimmune disease, but none that have killed me! I do believe that I will overcome this disease entirely one day. And I’m not sure I would whole-heartedly believe that without the people who have helped me get here. It is a heavy load those who live with autoimmune diseases carry, but I don’t believe I cant handle it.

There are certainly days I wish I didn’t have to, but in perspective, no matter how many bad days you have, the good ones still outweigh them all.

Before I had Crohn’s, I had a wonderful life but I wasn’t living it, not fully anyway.
Don’t let my positivity fool you. I have had hardships and struggles in my life with disease. I will not lie; there are days I quit, knowing I can start over fresh the next day. But the things that have been taken away from me due to my disease, have in turn provided me in opportunity; ten fold. Friends, networks of support, communities filled with IBD and autoimmune patients just. like. me. Who knew?

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