Escaping the stall – the biggest achievement of my life in IBD awareness week

This week is IBD awareness week. Yes, I know this is more of a special week in America (us Brits give it a whole month) but we should use every opportunity we can to raise awareness of this crippling illness and the real effect it has on people just like you and me. You know…slightly bonkers, but mostly normal.

Anyway this week means a lot to me. It’s the week when I think of all the other people who battle the public’s preconceptions of disabilities, while struggling day in day out to keep their lives together while dealing with crippling pain and fatigue. And, of course, those who are dealing with the frightening period before diagnosis, were you have no idea what you’re dealing with and are living in a state of total confusion balancing the dilemma ‘to tell or not to tell’ your friends in case they call you a freak.

Me and Fiona Phillips

After more than 13 years of suffering from Crohn’s/Colitis – the blood, the pain, the fatigue, the embarrassment, and all the horrible side-effects of the toxic drugs, treatments and x-rays – I have finally reached a point where I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, the light seems almost like a pin prick at the moment, but it is undoubtably getting closer. Following my operation I have at last been able to escape some of the horrible chains this illness binds around sufferers. Mainly the constant diarrhoea leaving me considering moving into a public bathroom full time and the diet of nothing but Ensure drinks and clear soup…but mostly the unbearable, ‘I’m going to black out’, pain. Ok, I’m still not well, and I’ll be shocked if I will ever be as well as the Average Jo, but right now I’m doing Ok, and I think others should take hope and courage from that.

Seven-months-ago I couldn’t last more than an hour at work without feeling like I was going to pass out; sitting through a court case was like sitting with a ticking time bomb under my ass…life wasn’t good, in fact somedays, while I was reading all the graffiti on the public toilet walls for the millionth time while my abdomen felt like it was being ripped over by gremlins with sharp teeth and razor-sharp claws, I thought I would be better off dead. I used to mutter to God, ‘please make it stop, let this be the end’, but it never was – and I’m glad every day it wasn’t.

But on Monday something happened that made me realise that no matter how ill you



are, not matter what chains or hurdles are thrown at you, amazing things can happen (yes, even to little me). I was named Trinity Mirror’s Young Journalist of the Year (that’s for the whole company, including The Mirror) – yes, I couldn’t believe it either! It was, and will probably remain (unless I win the Nobel Peace Prize or something – not likely) my single greatest achievement in my so far illness ravaged career. It shows I was right not to give up, quit my job, or even go part time, due to my illness. It shows that if you work hard enough and you battle through some of the most unimaginable pain something good will finally happen. It’s achievement enough that I’m alive and still sane at this point (well to an extent), and that I have an amazing support network around me – this is just the very big cherry on top of the icing on my cake.

Obviously this wouldn’t be a blog post without a bit of “Rachelness” to add in. After a day at the Editorial conference where my stoma chose to rumble, fart and make all manner of rude noises at the most inappropriate of times – at one moment I thought my stoma was going to take off and hurtle me towards the CEO like a human cannonball – I was exhausted. I got ready at the speed of light in my very swanky hotel room (in the Hilton – I could get used to that), transformed into a beautiful princess and waddled in my far too high but very pretty shoes downstairs to the award ceremony. When I arrived I was met with a glass of wine as huge as my head, before mingling with fellow reporters and upper management (many of whom I think thought I was a different person). It was very lovely indeed.

The pride of Trinity Mirror Awards

The pride of Trinity Mirror Awards

Ok, so where’s the ‘Rachelness’ I hear you cry…well here you go. I was so certain I didn’t stand a chance in winning against such incredible colleagues from across the company that as my name was announced I took the opportune moment to take a swig of wine. Wine plus shock = near chocking. I managed to hide it well, but as I walked in a daze to the stage I thought I was going to cry, mostly due to the honour but also due to the wine burning the back of my throat.

Oh and after being presented my award by the very lovely Lloyd Embley – editor of the Mirror – I couldn’t get back off stage. I sort of tottered looking rather confused on the brink of the stage looking at the very rickety steps thinking ‘I’m going to break my neck if I go down there’. People must have thought ‘she’s drunk’, in fact i’m sure I probably looked like i was going to jump but after being rescued by a knight in shining armour I made it back safety, walking back in an embarrassed blur as a whole room of people way way senior than me clapped and wished me happy birthday.

Surreal. Especially when you think for three months of 2013 I was seriously ill and like a dead man walking and for five months I was off following a serious operation – how on earth can I be an award winner?

My lovely boyfriend with gifts as I arrive home from the conference

My lovely boyfriend with gifts as I arrive home from the conference

So, if you feel like giving up this week. If you feel like you would be better off dead than living with the pain, blood and agony. If your fed up of life throwing an endless stream of crap at you. Stop. Just stop it. Life will get better, be it because of an operation, great treatment or new medication. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, or even this year, but things will get better for you. Just keep strong, keep fighting, keep positive, and soon that little glimmer of light will appear, and when it does GRAB IT!




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