Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis in the Prime of Life
A diagnosis of UC in the prime of one’s life can feel like a slap in the face, jolting you from the plans you had so carefully crafted, or causing you to take a pitstop off the long, open road ahead.
For me, my diagnosis came on my 24th birthday while I was in the middle of completing a doctorate degree. I had big plans for my future and was working in a highly competitive field where I was excelling. My diagnosis, however, made me question the plans that had once seemed so solid, so certain.
Life after my UC diagnosis
Could I really handle a fast-paced, competitive career while scheduling frequent doctor visits, managing debilitating symptoms, and navigating the isolation and loneliness that are so common among those of us with chronic illnesses? Could I travel the world as I had once dreamed, trying strange new foods and flying over shifting time zones?
All my dreams now had to be considered in the context of my disease.
The what-ifs of ulcerative colitis
There were also the what-ifs that were even more debilitating and fed into my concerns. What if I needed surgery? What if my symptoms couldn’t be managed? What if I had an accident in public? What if I couldn’t finish my degree?
My mind was a swirl of anxiety in the wake of my diagnosis, thinking of all the ways my life, which was only just starting, could change. However, just as nothing can, the anxiety did not last forever.
While being comfortable with uncertainty has never been a strength of mine, I can say I got better at it. I realized all those what-ifs only had control over me if I let them. If I succumbed to the darkest echoing recesses of my mind.
Focusing on what I can control
I realized what I did have control over. My knowledge (of my body, my illness, my needs, etc.) and my actions (adhering to my treatment, avoiding triggers when possible, practicing self-care) were all in my control.
I also realized that I wasn’t alone in not knowing the future. While UC obviously adds another layer to this uncertainty, no one truly knows what’s to come even with the best-laid plans.
My life is still open with many paths before me. My ulcerative colitis, while a piece of my identity, is not the only piece.
Are you newly diagnosed or do you have any advice for someone newly diagnosed?
Reaching for my goals
Seeing others reach for their dreams despite having IBD inspired me to keep dreaming, to keep moving towards the goals and values that matter to me. Those goals and values may have changed some, but I am still as relentlessly pursuing them today as I was prior to my diagnosis.
Today, however, I am strengthened by the knowledge of what I can handle, by the skills I’ve gained advocating for myself in doctor’s offices and on calls with insurance companies, and by the support team I have been lucky enough to assemble around myself.
My path forward with UC
All of this resulted from the illness I had so feared, and it has guided me toward a life path that, while looking slightly different from what I would have pictured back in 2018 before my diagnosis, is still filled with kindness, beauty, and passion.
Getting a diagnosis of IBD as a young adult will never be easy, but what pushes me forward is knowing that I can serve as an example for someone else, someone who may be now facing that anxiety-inducing swirl of doom in their mind.
Even with IBD, I know that dreams are still possible, and the future can still be bright.
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