April is National Minority Health Month, so to kick it off I reflected on what it is like to be a majority within my minority group! We all have different experiences with being parts of different groups, and we’d love to hear all of your stories!
Growing up I never considered myself part of a minority group. We lived in Brooklyn, and moved to the Five Towns (Long Island, NY), a predominately Jewish area. Then I moved to Texas, and boy did my world turn upside down. My first few years living in the South I knew one other Jewish person – my husband. I felt completely isolated, terribly homesick during the holidays, and like I was not going to feel comfortable until I moved back to the East coast. The year we moved was the year I was diagnosed with IBD, further isolating me from the people around me. I didn’t have Easter plans, didn’t go to the BBQ place for a pulled pork sandwich, couldn’t be a normal graduate student because the pain was too distracting – I fit nowhere and it was becoming increasingly more apparent.
I got married in 2015 and my last name changed to Flancbaum, which is when doctor’s started asking me if I had a family history of IBD because of my Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (not something I was ever asked when my last name was Nidetch). This brought a weird comfort to my life. I didn’t know anyone with IBD, I still wasn’t part of the Jewish community I am a part of now, but I felt like the connection was back and it was extremely encouraging.
Fast forward to 2018 – we finally joined a congregation that we are in love with. I am able to celebrate Shabbat and the high holy days in a synagogue, I have met the some of the most incredible people that exist in this world, and slowly but surely, I am meeting more and more Jewish people who have Crohn’s disease. I can tell when they are having a bad day, they can tell when I am having a bad day, and there is a mutual understanding of how horrible the traditional foods of the Jewish people can be for someone with IBD. I became a majority within a minority, and it brought home a little closer to North Texas. Do I wish that instead of IBD, Ashkenazi Jews had a higher rate of really awesome legs or perfect hair? Sure do. But I found a common place within the physical isolation I was feeling and I really only have my health to thank for that!
Casey Flancbaum was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 22, which ultimately was changed to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease the next year. She found the GWG organization and forum during a late night search for a support group geared towards women and is so grateful for the online community that she is now a part of!
Casey holds degrees in Music Performance from the Crane School of Music and University of North Texas, and is currently an active performer and teacher in the DFW area. In her free time, Casey loves to cook, garden, and spend time with her amazing husband, Samson, and three adorable fur kids, Jackson, Roxy, and Roscoe!