Introduction

Before you were diagnosed with Crohn's disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC), collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you probably never said very many of these words:

"Crohn's disease. Ulcerative colitis. Inflammatory bowel disease. Ileum. Rectum. Colonoscopy. 6-MP, 6TG, 6MMP, 5-ASA. Remicade. Ulceration. Mucosa. Colon. Cecum. Resection. Ostomy. Flare up. Fissure. Abscess. Bowel obstruction. Proctitis. Jejunum. Prednisone. Duodenum."

That is not unusual. If you were to walk up to anyone on the street, they would most likely be able to point out where their heart or brain reside but would not have a clue as to where the jejunum is located, much less what it does.

Ask them further about any of the other words on the list and they might be more lost. Now, however, those words will most likely have a whole new meaning, one you probably never thought they would have and one you never wanted.

The words above can be scary just as the diagnosis of an incurable illness can shake the strongest soul. Are you frightened? Or just confused? How about sad? These are normal things to feel when you have been diagnosed with a chronic, essentially incurable disease. But with education and support, you can feel more confident and content not only about today but also about the future. Of course, requesting help may be hard because most of us like to see ourselves as independent individuals-especially since the average CD and UC patient is diagnosed on the verge or in the early years of adulthood. We are supposed to be young, strong and healthy, right? In the past when we were sick, we had to take medication for two weeks and were better. We used to think that chronic illness was something that happens to the old and infirm, not to someone who is just starting to plan the rest of his or her life.

But it is happening and it is happening to you. To make matters worse, these diseases are very complicated, affecting not only various stops in the gastrointestinal tract but also other areas of the body such as the skin, the eyes and the kidneys. Surgery, tests and several medications can be difficult to manage, much less grasp on an intellectual level.

While this may seem very overwhelming, you can't really throw your hands up or crawl under the covers forever. You have to learn to accept the disease and to become an active participant in the treatment of it. You can rely on your doctors but unless you have enormous personal wealth, they can't be around you 24/7. Your family and friends also can only do so much. You need to become more confident of your ability to manage the illness and all it entails.

That is why it is so important that you learn about the medical and surgical treatments-things that will help to manage your CD or UC. No one expects you to become an expert in a day. I certainly didn't. It took more than 13 years to get where I am now.

Click here to continue reading First Year: Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis.

All information is copyrighted by Jill Sklar, 2002. All rights reserved.

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