Living with Crohn's from one decade to another

As we say goodbye to 2019 and look onward to the start of 2020 and beyond, it's expected that we all reflect on what has happened and what's to come. As someone with Crohn's disease, it feels surreal to think of my patient journey in terms of decades now, rather than years. There's something to be said for that "anniversary" each year and the "street cred" we gain as people with chronic illness as the years fly by.

Life before and after a Crohn's diagnosis

We all recall the day our lives changed. The day a physician looked us in the eyes and said: "You have Crohn's disease." From that point forward, we're all different, in a very unique way. I think of my life "before Crohn's" and "after Crohn's" because that diagnosis and my patient journey has had such a profound impact on who I would one day become and continue to evolve to be. Time is fickle. Time waits for no one. And after that initial diagnosis, getting that first year of gaining your footing and dealing with your identity struggles opens you up to a new world of possibilities, perspective, and strength.

What I've learned from Crohn's disease

As we embark on a new decade, I hope you feel empowered to take on whatever challenges and setbacks come your way because of the past struggles you've been up against and overcome. As someone who was diagnosed at age 21 in 2005, my hospitalizations, flare-ups, procedures, and surgery have toughened me up and desensitized me a lot to the "what ifs".

Sure, a flare-up is never welcome. The unpredictability of this disease is terrifying at times, but it's also taught me to live in the moment and realize that all anybody has in this life is today. When setbacks and health struggles come my way I find comfort in knowing that pain and dark moments are fleeting and the sun in my world will shine brightly once again.

Take time to acknowledge yourself for this journey

If you think about how you've changed (for the better!) since your diagnosis, you may surprise yourself. Really give it some thought. You've faced some extreme pain, a lot of challenges, and you're still here fighting and doing you against a chronic disease with no cure.

What may seem like simple acts--getting out of bed in the morning, working full-time, making dinner, the list goes on, doesn't always come easy to those of us who are in a constant uphill battle with our bodies. Take time to recognize all that you've been up against and how you haven't backed down or given up.

Look to the future in this new decade

This new decade is sure to bring unexpected turns, detours, and ups and downs, but it's also sure to make us feel even more connected to our purpose and how we choose to take on IBD. As the years go by, your patient journey will be one of new experiences, destinations, and clarity. Look to the past as a guide and look to the future as one of promise and hope. Because before you know it, we'll be looking in the rearview mirror on this decade and we'll be thinking how far we've come as not only patients but as people.

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