Lisa (37) was diagnosed at age 21 with Crohn’s Disease.
During Lisa’s time with Crohn’s Disease, she has had to endure 7 surgeries, 3 abscesses, 1 drain, numerous hospital stays (longest one being 5 months) and many complications, infections and procedures all whilst working full time as a nurse. For the past 10 years Lisa has not been able to work but spends her time doing her favourite hobbies such as art. After 2 years of taking a medication called Humira which suppresses the immune system, Lisa still suffers from active fistulas from her stomach which leak out the abdomen!Lisa was also diagnosed with Anxiety, a mental health condition which can be quite commonly ‘hand-in-hand’ with a Chronic Illness, which has been getting worse for her over the years. Lisa said “I personally think unless you’ve actually experienced anxiety, on any level, you have no idea what it feels like!”
“I felt so alone, I honestly didn’t know how strong I was until I had to go through this roller coaster.”
During her first hospital admission, Lisa had an Appendectomy which confirmed she had Crohn’s Disease and this came to no surprise as being a nurse meant she had already studied Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the nursing programme. It still left her with feeling scared, alone and worried. Lisa had a good life until the age of 19, where luck was always on her side with a bright future ahead but this changed after her diagnosis which meant she was no longer in charge of her life or ahead of the game. For the next ten years, Lisa tried to live her life as normal as possible doing things she loved such as partying, going to concerts and working hard and hid her suffering from all those around her. One positive that has come from having Crohn’s Disease and the experiences surrounding being chronically ill is that it had benefited Lisa in her career as a nurse which meant she had more empathy and was able to be patient with people.
“The craziest part is that I’m the happiest human all the time…constantly trying to do anything to make others smile.”
Relationships were a big worry for her, due to severity of the disease and how unpredictable it can be, accidents can happen and dashing to the toilet becomes the ‘norm’. “I was going for the broken type of guys (the ones who needed ‘fixed’) The broken guy who needs to rescuing, aka the single dad or the guy with no job.” Luckily, Lisa soon realised that relationships like that just don’t work, it isn’t anyone’s job to fix someone else. During Lisa’s time being poorly, her mum was a huge support to her.
“I’d never have thought that my mom would be helping my sick, limp, malnourished body from a wheelchair to the bathroom chair in the hospital, and washing my hair for me when in my early 30’s. My mom was right there beside me, rubbing my back and helping me with getting me a clean basin for being sick.”
Albert (8) in picture above
The next part any Chronically Ill person gets quite often is the dreaded question of “when are you having kids?” Due to having treatment for Crohn’s Disease, Lisa was never in a position where she was well enough to try for children then the issue of most medications being used to treat IBD, you cannot get pregnant whilst on them. Now at 37 years old and on Humira again it is advised that you don’t get pregnant on this medication so it is very difficult. For Lisa, her dog Alfie is her kid! Albert short for Albert, is an eight year old Shihtzu. “It’s a cute little story how we got put together, I wasn’t looking to buy a dog!…. When I first saw Albert, he was about 3 months old. I was supposed to take care of him while friends of mine went for a tropical holiday for a week over the winter holidays. When they returned, I knew they saw how much albert and I were meant to be! I still remember my friend yelling “Merry Christmas!” as she left my place! My favourite Christmas gift of all time!” The joy, love and laughter that Albert brings to Lisa daily, keeps her fighting through and continues to give her strength.