Thursday, July 3, 2014

Let's talk about Crohn's Disease

Scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, I saw Jezebel had posted an interesting picture–– at first glance I'd just assume it was another swimsuit model, but this time there was something different. She was wearing colostomy bags.
Bethany and her colostomy bags (via strongmindbraveheart.com)
Colostomy bags are just one of a number of unfortunate parts of being a person with Crohn's disease. I'm lucky enough not to have ever experienced one, but patients who do often report shame at such a visible sign of their disease. 

That would be why it's especially important that this woman chose to publicly share her photo and her experience with Crohn's. Thanks to some vague and tacky commercials that make it seem like Crohn's is just one lifelong quest to be near to a bathroom, people tend to not really understand the disease or be comfortable talking about it. This, in turn, just makes it harder for those of us who have Crohn's to deal with it–– but thanks to brave people like Bethany Townsend, it doesn't have to be an embarrassing thing.

When I was first diagnosed, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't embarrassed or ashamed at all. It's not exactly cute to tell your date to senior turnabout that you weren't at school the day before the dance because you were getting a colonoscopy. But thanks to my sense of humor and the unconditional acceptance of my best friends, I eventually got to a place where talking about it and joking about it came naturally. 
Me, 4 and a half years ago, the day after I was diagnosed (I'm on the left!)
With anything you go through in life, what's most important is being open about it. Suffering from something–– whether it's Crohn's disease, or diabetes, or depression–– is a lot harder when you do it alone. So yeah, I'm sure there's a lot of people out there who, thanks to all the ridiculous commercials about rushing to the bathroom, wouldn't want to tell an acquaintance, or a date, or the world that they have Crohn's. But it's only with this kind of openness that we can start to actually educate people on what it's like living with a chronic illness. That's why it's so thrilling to see news outlets that I read every day, like Jezebel, posting an article that could potentially open up a dialogue. 

I have Crohn's disease, but it's not a defining factor in my life. It's one of many things that makes me "me," like the fact that I'm addicted to chapstick or that I'm a dog person, or that I secretly love the Leprechaun horror movies. I never want it to hold me back from anything, and that's why I'm so happy Bethany isn't letting it hold her back from a potential career in modeling–– you show 'em what you've got, girl, colostomy bags and all!

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