Connor Swales, a team leader for Advantage Finance, was 12 years old when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and for the past ten years, he has been living with this illness.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
According to the NHS, Crohn’s disease is relatively uncommon, 115,000 people are living with the condition in the UK and it can affect people of all ages. However, most cases first develop between the ages of 16 and 30.
Adjusting to this chronic illness can be very difficult, knowing that it will be a part of you for the rest of your life can be overwhelming at first.
Connor, now 22, tells Artefact all about living with Crohn’s disease: “February 2008, That’s when my life changed. I didn’t understand what I had. I just knew it was affecting my school life because I was having a lot of time off, it got to my head as I just didn’t get it! ”
“My reaction was, what is that? I had no idea what Crohn’s disease was?” Connor was prescribed a course of medication – Azathioprine and Colesevelam.“Living with Crohn’s is tough, a constant worry about what you can and cannot eat and issues with weight. I struggle to keep weight on.” To many of us, shedding pounds is a priority, we waste so much of our lives in this constant battle to lose weight when it is irrelevant. One of the symptoms of Crohn’s is the inability to gain weight or even being able to keep at a healthy weight.
“For three months I was suffering from symptoms before going to the doctors, the doctors then made an incorrect diagnosis. They said it was asthma, which makes no sense at all, my mum was livid. They then diagnosed me with Celiac disease.”
Genetically and symptomatically speaking, both Crohn’s disease and celiac disease have a lot in common, they both deal with the inflammation of the intestines but there are some differences between the two. Celiac disease means you cannot digest gluten, Crohn’s, on the other hand, is a condition which leads to inflammation – redness, swelling, and tenderness in the lining of your digestive tract.
“My family is very supportive but not so much my friends, especially as I was in school when I got the diagnosis, I received a lot of abuse for it, looking back it was because we were school kids, immature and young.”
Artefact asked Connor whether his illness has had any effect on non-platonic relationships, “Yes it does affect it, I am extremely wary of one-night stands as the constant worries of having a flare up, the panic of having to go to the bathroom or if I am not able to take my tablets.”
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but medication is provided to control and suppress symptoms. According to the NHS, the primary aim of treatment is to maintain remission, or suppressed symptoms, but this has a long-term impact on the patient: “Knowing I will be on medication for the rest of my life is hard, but it’s something I have to deal with.”
As with many conditions, some argue that there needs to be a cure for this, and we need to fund research into this disease and help the people who have to live with it every day.
Crohn’s Disease can be very stressful. It is not an easy condition to live with – and many suffer in silence because they don’t know how to talk about what they’re going through, or who they can turn to.
Crohn’s and Colitis Support is a listening service for anyone who needs a safe place to talk about living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It’s provided by volunteers, all who have a personal experience of IBD, who are trained to provide emotional support and a listening ear, according to their website at crohnsandcolitis.org.uk.
If you are struggling with Crohn disease then their Information Team are happy to help with any questions you may have about these conditions and other forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
The service is available to anyone affected by IBD, anywhere in the UK. Contact them by calling 0300 222 5700 or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured image by Connor Swales.