Last year I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a condition that has been affecting me for more than seven years without me knowing. For those who don’t know – Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune disease that affects over 23,000 people in Australia.
The symptoms I have experienced over the years are very similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – stomach pains, bloating and diarrhoea. I had my first colonoscopy seven years ago which showed inflammation in my bowel, however doctors thought it was allergies or IBS. I dismissed it as IBS for years until last year when I fell very ill with ulcers in my mouth. I heard about Crohn's through a friend so I decided to get another colonoscopy. The gastroenterologist found ulcers in my bowel and they finally diagnosed me with Crohn's disease and I started my long term treatment.
Anyone with Crohn’s disease knows how distressing this illness can be. Every so often my digestive system flares up with painful ulcers, mainly in times of stress. These past few years I have experienced some pretty bad flare ups that have affected my work life, social life, touch football and even my mental health.
Earlier this year, right before Nationals for touch football I had flare up that sent me to hospital. They changed my medication to a strong immunosuppressant they use on cancer patients. I pushed through and two weeks later I played at Nationals for Brisbane and was selected for the Australian 27s squad.
It has affected me mentally mainly because my symptoms are triggered by stress and I get rundown and tired easily which can make me feel quite low at times. I feel like I can't perform to the best of my ability in work, footy and everyday life when I am having a flare up. I feel like I'm constantly pushing through each day and at the end of the day I'm physically and mentally exhausted.
I find myself running to the toilet quite often, even at the most inconvenient times – like in the middle of teaching a class or in a touch football game. I often feel tired, sick and run down because my immune system is working overtime and can’t absorb important vitamins such as vitamin B. However with an immune-boosting healthy diet, exercise in moderation and some strong immunosuppressants I’m finally starting to feel myself again.
I set myself a goal at the start of the year to focus on me, my health and fitness. I started eating three serves of fruit and vegetables a day, drinking a lot more water and I even gave up alcohol. I train for touch football every second day and allow a day off for rest. Some of my training includes hill sprints, long distance running, suicide runs and touch football skills and drills. There were times when I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up but I kept on going. I was pleased to see my hard work pay off.
I have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer so I have to undergo regular colonoscopies to check for damage inside my bowel.
I believe it is important to make people aware of conditions of the bowel. If you ever feel like something isn’t right in your body, definitely go and get it checked out. A lot of people close to me have been affected by bowel cancer and other conditions of the bowel, so it’s certainly a topic we shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about with our friends, family and most importantly our doctor.
If you would like to know any information on how Rebecca manages her illness, or you just want to chat about it, reach out to her on her blog here.