Finding a Connection and a Community
In 2001, I had my colon removed after only six months of being officially diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At the time I knew nothing about the disease, no one who had it and very little about what my future held. I was told there was no other options and that I'd have the surgery by choice on Friday or in an emergency situation the following Monday. I felt alone and embarrassed.
For two years I lived my entire life around having to use the bathroom which I would soon learn wasn't that odd for a person with IBD. My quality of life plummeted while my health actually got better. I became a 24 year old that was afraid to leave the house, spending the vast amount of my energy keeping my fear and embarrassment a secret. During those two years my only connection to information was through becoming a member of the Foundation. I spent hours scouring the web site, looking for others who had experienced the same thing and lived the same way.
In 2004, a year after my third surgery I learned about a 5K run/walk called You Gotta Have Guts happening in Seattle and hosted by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. I invited my sister and we formed the two person team, the J Pouch Posse. I went with the hopes that I would meet someone else who knew what I was going through. I left the walk/run a different person. There were nearly 1,000 people in attendance - - people that understood these diseases, people that laughed at them and most importantly, people that recognized how serious they are and were committed to doing something about it. I also left feeling less alone then when I arrived because through the Foundation, I had found a community.
Less than a year after that first event, I left my non-profit job and came to work for the Foundation's Northwest Chapter. I wanted to put my passion for building community and raising funds towards an organization that had done so much for me. Fast forward 12 years and you'll still find the J Pouch Posse at our Take Steps walk and me working here to move the mission forward. I often get asked when interviewing others who want to join our team in the Northwest why I've stayed all these years. My answer is always the same: I'm excited about what we are doing because I know the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation will cure these diseases and when when we do, I want to be a part of it.