In 2016, a week after my 22nd birthday, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I’d been really sick for at least 6 months and had only just scraped through to finish a degree in Archaeology and Italian. Given I’d wanted to be an archaeologist since I was 9 years old, I felt like I was finally so close to achieving my dream. I went from excitedly researching which field schools I could go on, to looking up a disease I knew nothing about.
At the time, I thought it was the worst thing that could have happened. I had been knocked right off the course I’d so carefully set myself on. Crohn’s currently has no known cause and no cure. The idea that I couldn’t get rid of it and also maybe never get better was terrifying. Some days it still is, but Crohn’s has taught me way more about myself and about life than I thought possible. As crazy as it sounds, I think I needed a chronic illness thrown my way. Prior to that, nothing had really touched me. I hadn’t been truly challenged by anything.
There are lots of different ways to deal with a life-changing diagnosis. I ended up just getting angry that my life had been derailed and I fought it. I felt the need to wrestle my body back from Crohn’s and make it mine again. That started by changing my look; cutting off the long hair that was slowly falling out and dyeing it red in my college bathroom. I realised pretty quickly that no matter how bright and shiny I appeared on the outside, I was still sad and frustrated internally. Wallowing and hiding behind a healthy façade weren’t going to get me anywhere. Time for another plan of attack. I know it’s clichéd, but I made a bucket list. I had been so intensely focused on finishing my degree and I hadn’t really been paying attention to anything outside the world of grades and assignments. I was finally in a position to start trying all the things I’d promised myself that I would do when I had the time. When I was younger, I’d done ballet for 10 years and absolutely loved it. There’s something so freeing about dance and I wanted to try as many different forms of it as I could. I got into pole dancing and burlesque, performing on stage for the first time in years. I felt powerful and beautiful.
I then signed up for a trial at a boxing and muay thai gym just down the road from my house. I had
never done anything like it before and I was curious. Nearly two years later, I’m addicted to it. I go 5 or 6 hours a week, kicking and punching with everything I’ve got. Had I not got Crohn’s and wanted to prove that I was still capable of living a full life, I would never have discovered my love for so many things. I challenged myself to write, to perform, to volunteer, to travel and to embody a warrior in everything that I do.
In the last four years, I have been floored several times by surgeries, hospital stays, flares and medications that didn’t work. Every time, I got up again. My pain threshold has gone way up, as has my compassion and openness. I go to the hospital every 6 weeks for treatment and through that, I’ve met so many fellow warriors. We hold hands while the nurses put our cannulas in and we support each other through the pain and the ups and downs. I didn’t just get IBD, I also got access to a fantastic community of people that know exactly what I’m going through at all times.
I may fight against Crohn’s Disease on a daily basis, but my body is still mine. I am capable of so much more than I ever thought and I’ve become a strong, independent, and literal kick-ass woman. I’m really proud of the person I am now and I couldn’t be her without Crohn’s. She needed to be challenged and pushed to be better; to live life with gusto and purpose. Now she’s unstoppable.