Laura Jane's Story
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the fall of 2015. That year, I had put off tests and doctors visits as I was uninsured at the time. But after months and months of bleeding, I became severely anemic, had lost a lot of weight, and was going to the bathroom more than 10 times a day. I didn’t know it, but my life was in shambles. I felt totally unstable as I was marginally employed and very stressed about my finances. When I look back at photos from that time, I can’t believe I kept a smile on my face despite how much I was suffering.
After a multiple day hospital visit and colonoscopy in 2015, my new gastroenterologist gave me my diagnosis ulcerative colitis. Flash-forward to my most recent appointment that marked the one-year anniversary of that diagnosis my doctor couldn’t believe it had only been one year. In that short time, I tried a host of medications, experienced the extreme side effects of steroids and withdrawal in an attempt to control the inflammation and symptoms of my disease. I underwent a second colonoscopy, and together with my doctor, we decided to try a biologic, which, in tandem with diet and lifestyle changes, has helped me achieve remission.
Coming through this initial experience with UC has made me a stronger person and it has dramatically changed my life. I realized what it means to really feel good. I’ve learned to be more patient and to have faith in my community and myself. It’s enabled me to see how tough I can be mentally; how gentle I need to be with my body and mind; how important it is to practice health self-care; and that it’s okay to feel broken and vulnerable.
I realized the value of nutritious food, stress relief, and great sleep. I’ve built a good relationship with my doctor, which required a lot of trust, especially while on medications that could do damage but also help me heal.
UC has shined a light on the most important people in my life, including my boyfriend, our families, and my closest friends, who have supported me through it all. Most importantly, having an invisible disease has helped me see and understand other people’s struggles, and see that everyone might be suffering and it’s not always visible.
I accept that remission and flares may come and go. There may be bad days still, with slow progress and challenging decisions. But I try to move forward with confidence and an attempt at grace especially when my family deals with me on steroids!
I look forward to greater research on the potential effects of the newer IBD therapies, especially as they relate to women and gynecologic issues. I’m interested in seeing more studies about IBD connections with other immune-related illnesses, including alopecia, dermatitis, and arthritis.
I encourage anyone with IBD or any chronic condition to find someone else with the disease to talk to. That’s one of the single best things I’ve done this last year connect with the IBD community through friends, acquaintances, and online forums. Relating to someone else, especially with a disease that affects the not-talked-about bowels, is incredibly helpful. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one dealing with a gut disease that, at times, can rule my life.
I try to take initiative in my care. I strive to be assertive and inquisitive with my medical team and family. I acknowledge and let go of what may be beyond my control, and I carefully work to change what I can control.
Do research. Get support to try different approaches and think outside the box, especially about your lifestyle. The seemingly drastic changes I made and rollercoaster of medications I tried were worth it. I believe I am a different person because of UC, but overall I think I am a better person too.