Five million people worldwide suffer with Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC), conditions also known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases or IBD. I'm not affected by IBD but my Mum is.
Ulcerative Colitis causes inflammation and ulceration of the inner lining of the rectum and colon. Tiny ulcers develop and may bleed or produce pus. UC is a chronic condition, which means it's lifelong, and although sufferers may have good days, they also experience flare-ups. The common symptoms are: diarrhoea, abdominal pain/cramping, tiredness and fatigue, feeling generally unwell, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Unfortunately there is no cure and very little understanding of the chronic pain and suffering someone with IBD goes through. It's very difficult, taboo even, for some to talk about bowel movements/issues and the stigma needs to stop. People who are living their lives with this invisible illness should have a platform to speak out and tell their story without feeling ashamed or judged. Crohn's and Colitis UK are an amazing charity that are battling the stigma and helping patients and their families along the way.
My mum was diagnosed in 2011 after suffering with horrific pain and diarrhoea that was non-stop for twelve weeks. She had quite a lot of tests, some extremely intrusive and uncomfortable, and after six months was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. She's tried various medication and has finally settled on a concoction of pills that work for her. She also sees a consultant every 4-6 months. However every couple of months she has a really bad flare-up and struggles to control her bowel, thus leading to embarrassing accidents and unbearable pain. She suffers badly with exhaustion and fatigue, no matter how much sleep she gets it doesn't help. Mum is very conscious when leaving the house and has to make sure that there is a toilet nearby; but even then she doesn't like to use public toilets because she gets embarrassed. I wish I'd known this sooner as she could get a RADAR key which allows her access to disabled toilets - I'm definitely buying her one. On far too many occasions when the pain has come on really badly she has left her food shopping in the middle of an aisle in the supermarket and rushed home.
I can't imagine what she goes through living with UC. I can obviously relate to pain and fatigue but the embarrassment must take a huge toll emotionally. My Mum is a very strong, confident woman and doesn't let her condition control her, she talks very openly about it and although suffering, always puts others needs before her own. All in all, she's an absolute diamond and I love her loads.
Side note: IBD is not IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), it's so much more, there is literally nothing more patronising than comparing your upset stomach to someone living with IBD.
Please help me raise awareness and tweet about #WorldIBDDay