One thing i’m going to start off by saying is thank goodness I didn’t suffer with Ulcerative Colitis throughout my school years, that is one thing I am thankful for.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 19 years old, and by that point I was working full time. This came with its own pressures, holding down a job whilst having numerous hospital appointments and also studying for a degree part time.
My company who I worked for from the start of my diagnosis supported me so much, I never shied away from informing them what was going on and because they knew the whole picture I believe thats why I got the support I did. It’s peoples own choice whether they want to inform their employers about their condition, but for me I spend the majority of my time at work, they should know about my disease!
I told my friends at work everything, why not? I spend 8 hours a day sat beside them, they were there on my bad days, seen me in the morning after I’d had a bad night and seen me rushing to the loo 10 times a day. For me it was only right to tell people, it also helped me to know that people knew if I went to the toilet 5 times in a couple of hours it wasn’t because I was slacking off, or if I needed to rush out of a meeting I couldn’t help it. To help awareness of Crohns and Colitis in the office too I often did cake sales to raise money and put up information sheets.
Ulcerative Colitis really affected my career in the last couple of years. My job entailed site visits and meetings which were around a 20 minute drive away from my office. Not only was that a problem was you had to get buses on and off the site unless you had a valid reason for your own car and a solo driver, I luckily received a pass due to medical reasons after I had a few embarrassing moments waiting for the bus. Let’s just say i’m glad I had a plastic bag and tissues in the car and leave it there. I didn’t want to go, I put off going to site and meetings and I was so stressed and anxious every time I had to go.
I gained my Foundation Degree, but my top up to an Honours Degree which I was doing part time took a hit too. College days often landed on my infusion days at hospital, which was a problem. At one point I was having a 4 hour infusion every two weeks, therefore missing half of my college. When I went in for my operation I missed so much college and due to this I didn’t get the grades, therefore still on my last year now!
My health always came first though. There is nothing more important than your health.
Since having my ileostomy surgery in March 2019, I am proud to say I haven’t had one single day off sick, which is massive for me. I am able to travel, I can sit in meetings for hours and hours without worrying, and recently I have managed to get a new job! This for me is huge, I could not have imagined doing an interview with active Ulcerative Colitis, having my first day with new people and a total new office, not knowing where the toilets were. But, with my stoma all this was a walk in the park! I am so proud of myself for everything I have achieved in this past year with my stoma, but this just tops it.
There are information sheets available on https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk which are really useful for advice with working with IBD but also information sheets available for employers, to provide them with information on how to deal with and understand employees with IBD.