This week sharing our stories features Tracy.
Please, can you tell us what your condition is?
I have Crohn’s Disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease which is an auto-immune condition.
How long have you had this condition?
I was first diagnosed in 2012 but have been told I have probably lived with it for a good 25 years.
Can you tell us what treatment you have had?
In 2012 I went to A&E with chronic stomach pains, I had lost over a stone in weight and physically couldn’t eat. I was admitted and, after several tests ( CT scan, x-rays ) diagnosed with IBD. I had 5 areas in my intestine that had fused together due to inflammation and basically burned through causing holes and tears so I was put on a liquid-only diet for 3 months to give my intestine time to recover.
After the 3 months, I had surgery to remove 3 feet of damaged intestine. It was an incredibly scary time as there was a chance I could have woken up with a Stoma in place ( A colostomy bag). Fortunately, the surgery was a success and I didn’t need one.
I only have to take one form of medication at the moment but have bi-monthly blood tests to make sure it is working and not causing any other problems in my system.
How has your life changed since diagnosis?
It has made me very conscious of what I put in my body. My diet changed completely, to begin with. I have slowly begun to reintroduce different foods but what can be fine one day can cause pain and problems another.
I have practical issues like needing to be close to public bathrooms when I am out as I can get “caught short”. I also suffer from chronic exhaustion which impacts every part of my life.
Most painfully, the disease left me temporarily infertile, it was explained to me that my body shut itself down so it could heal. A year after my surgery however, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy!
Have you found any alternative therapies that help?
I have tried reflexology which was wonderfully relaxing.
What would you like people to most understand about your condition?
That just because you can’t see anything “wrong” doesn’t mean everything is ok. Autoimmune issues are hidden disabilities that sufferers tend to try to fight through.
How can someone best help you?
Be understanding if I cancel plans, it’s nothing personal whatsoever, sometimes it’s hard to even lift my head off the pillow and it can hit at any time. Hugs are always great too!
Has your condition had an impact on your mental health?
It’s definitely had an impact. I think the lowered immune system, teamed with the physical exhaustion and pain definitely brings you down. I overthink about the future, if the Crohn’s will get worse and what could happen then. I have started taking anti-anxiety medication since my diagnosis.
Are there any positives to having your condition?
I relish a day when I have energy. It has forced me to learn to take care of myself too.
What is your favourite way to distract yourself?
I listen to music, and audio books. I love to walk.
And finally, how does wearing Braver than I knew, make you feel?
It gives me confidence in myself. Makes me feel proud of what I’ve overcome.