brave woman looking forward

Putting on a Brave Face

Do you remember when you were little and you would go to the doctor’s with your parents, and before getting a shot they would say “Don’t be scared. It will all be ok.”? Or, if you got sick, they were always there to hold your hand or apply a cold compress in the event of a fever? Mine did.

However, I feel like as of the past 10 years, I have been the one telling them, “Don’t be scared. It will all be ok” whenever I get sick with my Crohn’s disease. Putting on a brave face has become the norm, not only for me but for others who suffer from IBD. 

Sometimes it is a way for us to better handle stress. Other times it feels like if we are calm, the situation won’t be as bad. Regardless, putting on a brave face and making others think that it will be ok can get tiresome, and often take more of an emotional toll on us than the physical pain we are already experiencing.

Having to be brave after diagnosis

I remember when I was first diagnosed in 2009. I called my parents to let them know that my colonoscopy did, in fact, confirm that I had Crohn’s.

My father’s brother also has Crohn’s and suffered terribly from it a few years before my diagnosis, so he was quite upset to hear that his youngest daughter also had Crohn’s. Telling my mom was slightly more difficult, as the news was met with great disbelief and denial. “You don’t have Crohn’s! You’re not even sick!” was her initial reaction. To be fair, I was asymptomatic when I was first diagnosed, so I understand her resistance, but this continued for months after the diagnosis because “It just could not be.”

I suddenly felt like the adult in the situation, and my parents were the children. Reassuring them that “everything is ok” and that “I will be fine” became a habit whenever we spoke about my disease and when I wasn’t feeling well, but I eventually grew tired of having to be the brave one.

Fighting an ongoing battle with Crohn's disease

But maybe that is why we are called “Crohn’s Warriors”? The definition of a warrior is a brave or experienced soldier or fighter. I honestly cannot think of a more fitting term for anyone living with Crohn’s disease. 

We are constantly fighting an ongoing battle with a dragon that may awaken at any time and wreak havoc at a moment’s notice. We are constantly putting on a brave face to family, friends, spouses, colleagues, and clients so that they do not know the chronic pain we face daily. And, to say that we are “experienced” is quite an understatement. After countless hospital stays, medical testing, poking and prodding, and surgery, I can honestly say I have quite the experience in fighting this lifelong battle, just like most other patients.

Earning the title, Warrior, is reserved only for the strongest and bravest. Perhaps we earned this title because only we can handle the type of disease that was handed to us. Perhaps being brave is in our DNA and this is how we were chosen to show it.

Regardless of the reason, we wake up every day, choosing to put on a brave face so that we do not alarm not only those who love us, but also ourselves. We have a strength that most others do not. Putting on a brave face is not a choice, it is a necessity. It makes us believe in our inner Warrior, fight this disease with utmost resilience and valor, and take on each day with a fierce attitude.

So, put on your brave face, and let’s do this, fellow Warrior.

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