My name is Brittany Bartlow, I’m 18 years old, I am a firstyear student at Carleton University, I am studying forensic psychology & I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 15.
I want to give you an overview of my journey through Colitis. So most of the time people who know about IBD only know about Crohn’s unless someone they know or themselves have Colitis. We’re sort of the forgotten or underestimated part of IBD.
So August 1st 2014, I moved to a new house,closer to my high school. I thought that this was a great new happy beginning.Well life decided to say no to that. Not even two weeks after moving, I had settled into my new room in the basement, I had my own bathroom and everything!So exciting for 15-year-old me. I first realized something was up when my parents started asking if I was having any issues, mentally. They asked me upfront if I was anorexic. I had lost about 20 pounds within 2 months and I had been going to the bathroom 4 to 5 times a day. So Crohn’s and Colitis come with this wonderful set of symptoms:Fatigue, Weight Loss, and most commonly diarrhea. Well for the past year or so I had not had a normal bowel movement, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to me that I was having diarrhea at the time. My aunt came over one day and she said“Brittany, your skin is grey.” The pain, was the worst most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life.It felt like knives in my stomach, I would tell people I had angry little men in my stomach who were so mad at me for eating. This was the kind of pain that you couldn’t just ignore. The first time it happened I was working at my first job, I was taking someone’s order and I doubled over in pain, this lady asked me to get my manager and she proceeded to tell my manager to send me home saying “look at the poor soul, can’t you see she isn’t well?” So we went to my family doctor where I told her that I was bleeding when I went to the bathroom, and at this point I had waited so long, there was no more stool, I was pretty much pushing out blood and that was it. Well it took them from the end of July til September to send my “urgent” referral to CHEO. I met my GI in October 2014, I am not even kidding, when I said my dad had colitis, he had done a colonoscopy and MRI and biopsies by that Friday and I was diagnosed within 3 days. I am lucky, most people don’t get correctly diagnosed until much much later. So he put me on Prednisone and Pentasa that Friday, I went from 90 pounds, to 130 pounds, and had the cheeks of a chipmunk, the acne of someone who never ever washed and the shakes like you would not believe. Not long later, Pentasa proved to not be working so they put me on prednisone a second time, and tried Imuran. That also didn’t work so now I am on Remicade which is a biologic infusion which is given to me every 5 weeks, I also had an allergic reaction to this medication so I am still on it but with a mixture of Benadryl IV, HydraCortisone and Tylenol. The thing about this story is that before I was diagnosed, I felt like there was no reason to live, like there was nothing for me here. It’s weird to say but my chronic diagnosis somewhat saved my life. I became a part of Crohn’s & Colitis Canada the year I was diagnosed and made a team for the Gutsy Walk. The next year I raised over 2000$ with my family team. This past year, I was a volunteer for Gutsy Walk and the Guts and Glory Golf tournament and raised on my own over 5000$ for my cause.
It can be really hard to deal with having IBD, for me,meeting people who knew about it, who dealt with it, by getting involved was the way I coped. I made it my duty to make people aware of the diseases and to be proud to represent it. It is a part of who I am and I do my best to get people in the know. My close friends are the people that know the most, obviously if they are uncomfortable with the subject of poop well that’s not going to work out cause if I hold in a fart I might just explode beside you.
Find the support, talk to people, be open about it, laugh about it. What made me feel better was talking about the ridiculous things people would say! “Maybe it’s hemorrhoids.” Or “Have you eaten tomatoes lately?” So my advice for coping is to learn about it, talk about it, be proud of it.