Friday, May 31, 2013

Lucky Me

Today is the last day of May, which was Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Awareness Month. May was also the host of awareness campaigns for several other illnesses, including Cystic fibrosis, Celiac Disease, Arthritis, and ALS, among others. For each of these diseases, there is nothing that sufferers can do to prevent their illness, nor is there a cure.

All of these awareness campaigns are worthy of our attention, as well as those for so many other illnesses - those that can be treated, and those that cannot - that exist today. There are a lot of them, and they all suck. Cancer sucks. Arthritis sucks. ALS sucks. IBD sucks. No one who suffers any of these fates is a winner. By raising awareness for our plights, we can raise funding for research to improve treatments, identify preventative measures, or find cures. Breakthroughs in some areas may help make headway in others, and frankly, I support all of them.

And if you’re healthy, why should you care? What if it were you? What if your spouse, parent, or child became ill? What if through research we were to discover that there is something we could do differently to prevent some disease, such as autoimmune disorders, which are occurring more frequently, especially in children? Prevention is a savings for all of us, medically and economically.

As far as diseases go, I’m well aware of IBD, because I’m a lucky Crohnie. Yes, I said lucky. You see, I’m alive, and at one point, my life was threatened by this ugly disease. Did you know that Crohn’s complications can do that, sometimes without notice? I also have a job. Some IBD sufferers are so disabled by the disease that they can’t work. I’m also fortunate because my Crohn’s wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult, giving me the freedom to grow up healthy and without disease. Currently, thirty percent of IBD diagnoses occur in children, some as young as toddlers. No child should have to be sick with any serious disease, ever.  

I consider myself lucky because I have responded fairly well to medications, making my symptoms more manageable, which isn’t the case for some IBD sufferers. I have health insurance, and can afford to pay for my care, which is costly. I have a supportive husband, who I love immensely and with whom I have a strong marriage (incidentally, it takes a LOT of work). I was able to get pregnant and have two beautiful, healthy children. I have a supportive family; parents who are willing to drop everything and drive 4 hours in an emergency; friends who are willing to pick up our kids; neighbors who bring us meals and ask how I’m doing. See? Lucky me.

I also know that it could be so much worse. My symptoms could be worse, my medications could stop working, or I could have another illness that would place much more burden on my life, or take it away.

I suppose it’s the devil you know versus the devil you don’t?

Any of us who are afflicted with a serious illness will have a different journey than we once thought we had set out upon. This is hard to accept, and at times can bring us to our knees. But we’ll get up, dust ourselves off, and forge ahead, because that’s all we can do.

We will also fight for better treatments, awareness, and cures. I have found my voice. I will speak up for myself and others with Crohn’s disease, because it is misunderstood, a fact that is incredibly frustrating. I will speak up for others who fight their own battles, because it’s the right thing to do – and we’re all in this together.

Happy <insert the name of your disease here> Awareness Month! Be well, my friends.