Hello, everyone! Welcome to my column, “Chronically Strong.” My name is Shawntel Bethea and I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 17.
After my diagnosis, I really struggled with life with IBD. I didn’t know anyone who had the condition, and I lived in constant fear of being judged or embarrassed. I never achieved remission and for years only took steroids to suppress my immune system. In 2013, after a bad infection (accompanied by a same-day surgery), I decided I wanted more for myself. I spent the next year and a half working with a new physician trying to achieve remission, or at least find some relief from such a life-consuming condition.
Unfortunately, as time passed, my condition only began to worsen and symptoms never subsided. Trips to the emergency room were routine by this point – some nurses even knew me by name. I’d tried just about every treatment option there was, including different diets. I even stopped eating meat. My doctor prescribed pills, injections, and infusions, all of which eventually failed. After each failure, I became more and more depressed. I began to think my life would never get better.
At the end of 2014, I had my colon removed and lived with a temporary ostomy. In mid-2015, I had my ostomy reversed and experienced an entirely new life with a J-pouch. I am now 25. I still have issues, complications, and extraintestinal manifestations of my own, but I feel miles farther and leagues better than the place I was at. I’ve found strength in my story and now use it to help others who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease. I also share my life on my blog MoreSpoons.com.
So, that’s my story! It’s by no means pretty. It definitely was not easy, but by going through it I am now a better and stronger person. I am Chronically Strong.
With this column, I hope my readers feel empowered – empowered to share your stories and empowered to embrace life with a difficult condition by knowing you are not alone. I want IBD patients to know that our condition is important, too. It’s life-consuming and hard.
When visiting “Chronically Strong,” I hope you find these articles relatable and helpful to your life and in dealing with your condition one way or another. I’m excited to build a relationship with each one of my readers!
We need a cure. But until then, we are strong.