By Abi Purvis
Despite over 300,000 people living with Crohn’s in the UK, I was completely oblivious to this hidden disease until my friend Riss was diagnosed with it.
Crohn’s is a form of bowel disease that inflames one’s digestive system. Its symptoms are; diarrhoea, vomiting, tummy aches, blood in stool, tiredness, and weight loss.
After a gossip on her bed, Riss admitted Crohn’s is “an embarrassing illness. It’s to
do with your gut and your bowel and so that’s a lot of toilet stuff” so we moaned about the bizarre illusion that women don’t poo…
Yes, we do. Get over it.
She can even be visiting the ladies’ room “up to 20 times a day” when having a flare
up (on a regular day it’s “5 to 6 times”). She used to worry about what people think,
especially while at work. She was concerned that they might think she’d been slacking off to look at her phone, but not anymore. She even feels confident enough to say, “accidents have happened” (I won’t go into details).
She watches her diet carefully to avoid flare ups. These “feel like a constant period
pain but where I am constantly having to hold myself in from both ends hello toilet
talks. It’s like an intermittent sharp stabbing pain like someone’s got a belt and is
pulling it tight around your waist”.
When I asked Riss what foods she avoids because of their inflammatory effects,
there were more than I realised. Riss avoids foods that are high fibre, spicy, or have
seeds/pips, as well as caffeine and alcohol are all a ‘no go’ for Crohn’s suffers.
Riss described how her tummy “gets angry” when she eats these foods by enacting
some gurgles and grumbly tummy noises. This is how it tells her “I’m not happy with
1 in every 210 people are living with Crohn’s
Since having a surgical operation, a long incision (resulting in her “favourite scar”
which is 4 inches across her abdomen), and wearing a Nasogastric Intubation tube,
Riss proudly has “no sense of embarrassment”.
She counts herself as one of the lucky ones for having surgery as it has normalised
her everyday life. She doesn’t have to use a stoma bag, or take steroids, or have
injections, which are some alternative treatment options.
There is no known cure for Crohn’s.
Riss informs people about her scars and explained how “people are really interested,
which helps to spread awareness”. She has shared her Crohn’s journey on Instagram and in August she hosted a mini festival and raised £2,500 for the charity.
Every 30 seconds someone is diagnosed with Crohn’s or Colitis.
After teasing me for my “professional” question ‘What advice would you give someone who has been recently diagnosed?’ (I was glad to see she was being supportive of my writing aspirations) she said:
“Listen to what your Doctors says. Yes, some foods you miss, but at the end of the
day you’re okay. Don’t be embarrassed and live life to the full.”
Riss is currently happy, healthy, and living her life.
I am one proud friend.
Information and resources on Crohns disease: