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How life with IBD helped me develop gratitude

Learning to ride the waves with IBD and the gratitude it’s bestowed

I wish I could have handed the girl being wheeled into her first-ever abdominal CT scan a snapshot of what her life would be like one day. I wish I could have held her hand as she rocked on the toilet doing colonoscopy prep the day after she was told at age 21 in the emergency room that she had a disease without a cure. I wish I could look her in the eyes while she sobbed in the hospital bed as potassium felt like liquid fire in her veins and whispered to her that better days were ahead. I wish I could show her that those 22 pills her mom laid out each morning on the paper towel on the kitchen counter that caused ungodly side effects would be temporary. I wish I had the perspective in 2005 that I have now—more than 17 years later as a former morning news anchor and mom of three with Crohn’s disease.

When I was diagnosed with IBD at age 21, two months after graduating from Marquette University, my world and life flipped upside down. No one prepares you for a chronic illness diagnosis that is unpredictable, painful, and challenging. It’s like being told you’ve reached your final destination of being healthy, and now moving forward you must get into a raft on choppy waters not knowing which way to go, how to steer, and what to do with each setback that comes your way. 

The tides have turned

I’m a lot different than the girl who lived life carefree those first 21 years. I never once thought about my health being ripped away from me in the blink of an eye and everything changing. At the same time, now as a 39-year-old woman, who has learned how to cope and how to ride the waves,  I wouldn’t trade the experiences that brought me to where I am today. There’s something to be said for living life through a lens where you recognize the beauty of a “feel good” day. The mundane, basic joys in life, which are so easily taken for granted are now celebrated. I have learned how to be happy with chronic illness.

Being able to rise above challenges and still go after your dreams—whether it’s reaching career goals, finding your lifelong partner, or becoming a parent—all just mean a bit more. When you live with IBD you are faced with hurdles that can pop up at any given moment. There’s a gratitude you gain for the perspective you earn along your patient journey. 

My chronic illness  has made me feel strong in moments of weakness. My chronic illness  has shown me all that I’m still capable of even though the path may be different to reach the destination. My chronic illness did not rob me of sharing the news in the spotlight of a television studio. My chronic illness helped show me the true color of men who weren’t meant to be in life and who was. My chronic illness  didn’t stop me from bringing three, healthy babies into this world—those pregnancies and every day I’m in the trenches of mothering little ones. I'm given a renewed sense of love and adoration for my body that previously was so riddled with illness.

Celebrating this season of gratitude

In this season of gratitude, I’m grateful for the setbacks that forced me to rise above and pivot. I’m grateful for a biologic injection that has remained therapeutic for me since 2008, has enabled me to live a full quality of life, and helped me manage my disease. I’m grateful for every opportunity I get to empower others and show them all that’s still possible, while living with IBD. 

There’s no telling how different my life would have looked if I wasn’t told I had Crohn’s disease in 2005, but now, I don’t see my IBD as a scarlet letter, it’s a badge of honor. I’m aware there will be rough waters ahead, but I know I have so much in my arsenal now that I didn’t have before. I have my family and friends, the IBD community, and the experience to push on, and most importantly I have the time. It’s taken so much time to gain this perspective, at least a decade to come to this realization of gratitude. Be patient with yourself. Some moments, days, and weeks are going to feel like hell, but the sun will shine on you again and after going through the dark moments it will feel even brighter.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by HealthBeacon plc and the author was compensated and was given a Smart Sharps Bin free of charge. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of HealthBeacon or Hamilton Beach Brands.

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