Tag Archives: inflammatory bowel disease

Spreading the Hope of Youth Rally!

Remember your teenage years? Wanting the right hair and clothes, having a crush on that special someone – who didn’t know you existed? Recall feeling awkward and out of place…all alone? Remember trying to fit in? Now imagine that you had a chronic illness that required surgery to save your life. What if on top of all the “normal” adolescent issues, you used the bathroom through a pouch on your side, because your diseased intes­tine had to be removed. How’d you like to miss your birthday party, the big game, even prom, because you were in the hospital- AGAIN! Sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it?

For thousands of teens across the nation, THIS IS REALITY.

A reality that I was all too familiar with. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 9, I spent much of my childhood in the hospital. When I was 15, I had my diseased large intestine removed, leaving me with a condition called an ileostomy. The ileostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdomen through which doctors bring a portion of the small intestine. I now wear a prosthetic (called a pouch) on my abdomen that my waste is collected in. There are other types of ostomies,too, depending upon the type of bowel or bladder diversion the person is in need of.

When I was 17, I attended my first Youth Rally. It was there that I met young people from all over the country who shared my very same experiences. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone, and the support and camaraderie I received through Youth Rally shaped my life’s work.

I’ve gone on to be a Rally counselor over 12 times, helped to start a support network for young adults with ostomies and diversions, and have  led the ostomy community in the U.S as the president of United Ostomy Associations of America. I now work for an amazing company that makes undergarments for people that have had ostomy surgery, helping them regain their confidence and active lifestyle.

My passion is to let others know that no matter the trauma a person has been through, there is always a purpose for the suffering, and a light at the end of the darkness. I want others to recognize that they too can rise from the ashes of disease and live life to it’s fullest, something I have been doing since 1993 when I first attended Youth Rally as a camper. Rally taught me that I was not alone, and that is what made all the difference.

By returning to Youth Rally as a counselor, I have the opportunity to use my experiences (with Crohn’s Disease and 14 subsequent surgeries and as a leader in the ostomy community) to bring a message of hope to other young ostomates who may not see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Would you consider making a donation to help me share the hope of Youth Rally with teens from across the country?

Thank you in advance for your support!

*** To make a donation, you can click on the Sponsor Me link on the right side of this page, or navigate to my Youth Rally Fundraising page ***

For more information about Youth Rally, see their website located here

Me & former camper turned CIT counselor Kristen K. Two KK's = twice the shenanigans!

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Somedays…

having an ostomy really stinks. (Yes, literally and figuratively). Yesterday was one of those days. Due to my own bad judgement Sunday afternoon ( I ate pineapple on pizza at the in-laws after church), I had a partial obstruction for about 24 hours. The bloated feeling started around 8pm Sunday night, followed by the cramps, the nausea, and all the other loveliness that goes along with a bowel obstruction.  By 1:30am my pouch was leaking because my abdomen was so distended and hard. Nothing more fun than rolling out of bed at that hour, fumbling around to find the ostomy supplies, banging into the bathroom door (and waking the dog in the process), and trying to do a complete wafer & pouch change in the light provided by the plug in nightlight because if you turn on the light the dog will think it’s morning and you’ll never be able to go back to sleep.

I got up Monday morning and manged to put clothes on, make a lunch for Jaidin and get her ready and to school on time. Back home I came and went down to my office to try and work. I sat at my desk with the heating pad, hot tea, and prayed to the ostomy gods to PLEASE relieve my suffering. I answered  the phone with my right hand and massaged my tummy non-stop with my left , hoping with all hope that the blasted pineapple piece would just pop out of there already!!

But the ostomy gods were hell bent on trying to teach me a lesson. At about 10:30am, I discovered that my pouch was leaking – AGAIN, so I headed upstairs to change it. During this change I discovered the fire engine red skin around my stoma that I had missed  in the earlier change done by nightlight. Oh joy. I have some nerve damage in the peristomal skin since my last surgery, so I cant always feel when my skin is compromised. No bueno!

I finished my shift at work at 4pm and moved myself to the couch where I resided the rest of Monday evening. Finally at about 8pm I got a major “movement” and started feeling better. Crisis diverted and no Emergency Room trip.

Today I’m sore as all get out and feel wiped out.  All that from a couple little pineapple tidbits. I know – most of you are saying ” Why in the world did you eat the blasted pineapple, dummy?” (Mom- I see you reading). Well, I ate it because my diet is a bit like playing Russian roulette. 9 times out of 10 I can eat “problem foods” (pineapple, nuts, coconut, mushrooms, etc) with NO PROBLEM. But, occasionally – that 9th time out of 10, they give me an issue. After years and years of a restricted diet due to IBD, and having my ostomy for 19 years, sometimes I feel it’s worth the risk  in order to occasionally eat a food I enjoy. Maybe I’m hard headed. Or maybe some days having an ostomy really does stink…

Takin’ Steps Toward A Cure

Did you know that approximately 1.4 million people in the United States have Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis?
These illnesses, collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Currently, there is no cure.  

Did you know that approximately 700,000 people in the United States live with an ostomy?
An ostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdomen where a portion of the digestive or urinary tract is brought through to create a stoma. An appliance, or pouch, is then worn over that opening to catch the waste that is eliminated.  

I am one of the 1.4 million and 700,000.  
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 9. I spent 3 consecutive months in the hospital, only to be discharged to live a life that was no longer my own. My normal childhood gave way to a life controlled by bloody diarrhea, 30 bathroom visits a day, strict diets, and medications galore. It seemed my future would now be dictated by a debilitating disease. At age 15, after a particularly long flare up of the disease, I chose to have my entire colon removed, in hopes of bringing the disease into remission. Fourteen surgeries later, I now live with a permanent ileostomy, and finally…I am healthy!  

I spent many years feeling alone and isolated. Questions danced through my mind…
“Why me?”
“Will I ever be healthy?”
“Will life ever REALLY be worth living?”
“Why did this happen?”
“Can anything good ever come from my suffering?”  

In 2006, I joined the staff of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, the only national organization dedicated to curing and preventing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis through research, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these digestive diseases through education and support. I work in the Northeast Ohio office, and every day I receive calls from patients, young and old, asking the questions I, too, asked myself many years ago.  
My journey with Crohn’s disease and an ostomy has opened up to me a world of opportunity, both personally and professionally. Everyday I get to share my experiences, in hopes of making someone else’s journey a little bit easier. My passion is to let others know that there is indeed life after Crohn’s disease and ostomy surgery. And it’s good life!
By using my story to help others and answer their questions, my own questions of years ago have been answered.   I hope that by sharing my story, you will be compelled to help me help others by supporting me as I walk in the Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis Walk.
You can get involved in two ways – join my team and walk with me on June 6, 2009 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, or make a tax deductible donation to CCFA Take Steps in my name.

The walk is going to be a lot of fun – a family festival atmosphere with a DJ, food, inflatables and storytelling for the kids, company exhibits and presentations. The festivities start at 5:30pm and the 2.5 mile walk kicks off at 7pm. If you’re interested in walking with me and my friends and family on the  Me & My (Osto)Mates team, go to this link:

http://online.ccfa.org/site/TR/Walk/Chapter-NortheastOhio?px=1233871&pg=personal&fr_id=1213

If you’re unable to walk with me, please consider going to my page and making a tax-deductible donation. Over 80 cents of every dollar donated to CCFA goes directly to mission based programs and research that benefit me and patients just like me!

Thanks for your support. I hope you’ll join me on June 6 to Take Steps toward research, support, and a future free of Crohn’s and colitis!

Having a uterus is a pre-existing condition?

Affordable healthcare should be of particular importance to women this election season, as new insurance-company data dissected in today’s New York Times reveals that women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing the same coverage.

So, not only do I have Crohn’s disease AND a permanent ilesotomy working against me in the health insurance circus, but now having a uterus is equivalent to having a pre-existing condition? LOVELY…

Invisible Illness Awareness Week Brings Thousands Together Who “Get It”

As someone who has lived with an “invisible” chronic illness for over 23 years, I found the below organization and event a welcome addition to my own circle of support and advocacy. I’ve often said of my Crohn’s disease that “I wish it was somehow visible”, so that others might understand and “get it”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard over the past 23 years “But you don’t LOOK sick”.

Living with an invisible illness can cause heartache and bitterness when one feels no one understands the significance of the illness. Invisible Illness Week provides that validation that people with invisible diseases often seek.
San Diego, CA — (SBWIRE) — 08/27/2008 — While we assume that most people are generally healthy, you may be surprised to find out that an alarming nearly 1 in 2 people in the United States live with a chronic illness. So why is it that most of us don’t even know when a friend or co-worker is dealing with diabetes, heart disease, lupus, or chronic fatigue syndrome? Because, according to the U.S. Census, about 96% of people have invisible illnesses.

National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is being held this year, September 8-14, 2008. It’s a secular event sponsored by Rest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that serves the chronically ill. Visit the invisible illness awareness campaign’s web site at www.invisibleillnessblog.org . You can be encouraged through dozens of articles, including daily guest bloggers, find ideas to get involved in the outreach, and goodies to help promote awareness, from silicone bracelets to brochures. Tired of those looks when you park in a handicapped spot? Be sure to pick up a license plate or bumper sticker.

The focal point of the awareness campaign is September 8-12 (M-F) during which 20 telephone seminars will be held on a variety of topics and are open to anyone. Topics may also be of interest to those with loved-ones who have an illness. Some seminars include:

– Assess Yourself: Find the Job You Desire and Can Do Despite Illness Limitations

– The Civil Rights of Patients with Invisible Chronic Illnesses

– Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors

– Secrets of Paying for Medical Care

– How to Get Paid to Blog

– After the Diagnosis: The Journey Beyond

The theme this year is “Hope Can Grow From The Soil of Illness.”

Lisa Copen, 39, began National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week in 2002 as she continuously witnessed hundreds of people emotionally hurting just because they felt as though no one “got it.” Lisa has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for fifteen years and understands how validating it can be to just have one friend who you don’t have to explain everything to.

“Though there are hundreds of illnesses represented, and large differences in symptoms and pain levels, none of that matters more than feeling like someone understands you. When our best friends and family members are skeptical about our disease, it can be that last straw that sets us off into a spiraling depression.”

She says, “We plan to unite the millions of people who live with chronic pain and illness by offering an oasis of hope and understanding, as well as helpful information and practical tools to live the best life possible.”

Through the guest bloggers of Invisible Illness Week, to 20 seminars that supply tools to ensure that one is cared for–both body and soul–National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is succeeding in meeting that goal.

Find out more information and receive daily updates at http://www.invisibleillnessblog.org

Cleveland Clinic performs small bowel transplant

Thought all my Crohnies may be interested in this link:

http://www.cleveland.com/health/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/1216369870243350.xml&coll=2

Crohn’s and colitis give me my live TV debut

Yep, that’s right…I was on TV this morning. You can view the clip Here

It was a great interview, a wonderful way to get the word out about Take Steps  and raise awareness about Crohn’s and colitis.

However… hello?!? Is that really my face?? Please tell me those aren’t my chipmunk cheeks…

*sigh*  At least it was for a good cause ;^)