Happy December! It's the unofficial start to the holidays in my house AND the beginning of Crohns and Colitis Awareness Week... so things are feeling incredibly festive! Over the past two years, though, celebrating this week seems to top even the best of holiday preparations and I can't say that I'm too sad about that fact. Awareness weeks has officially turned into its own holiday for me, as I look to acknowledge my past experience with the disease, celebrate the community that has supported me to get to where I am today, and look to the future with education and hope for better outcomes through the joint work of the medical field, organizational support, and advocates across the world.
Calling out my past isn't always easy for me, but it's been a necessary tool to find support and perspective in my experiences with Crohns disease. Talking to anyone is helpful, but talking to others who can relate and empathize has been transformational. I gain confidence and community every time I share my story. If you haven't shared yours yet -- DO IT! This is such an amazing part of the Awareness Week platform - chats, blog articles, and tweets filled with hashtags help support you to both personally share AND lift up fellow crohnies in their own disease experiences. I have not seen any competition in disease severity, and I'm particularly drawn to the large number of people I see across social media who finish their story with "i've never told anyone this before." That's an amazing outcome of awareness - yes awareness grows in the general community, but sometimes it's about awareness of the IBD community to bring support to those who diagnosed and trying to go it alone. I love seeing the community grow every year.
An amazing part of the week is the constant shout outs that happen on social medial from one advocate or advocacy organization to another. It's the virtual holiday card and hug that I swear we'd all give to one another if we lived in IBD Town. It's incredibly uplifting and such a perfect boost to keep the drive for advocacy moving forward. Just a few weeks ago, I was experiencing an inevitable moment of advocacy burnout, but today, that feels like a distant memory. Celebrating each other as advocates - which include those with the disease and our allies in the medical field and at national and world-wide health organizations - is a reminder that we aren't alone as we fight our individual battles, but also as we fight for the community as a whole. JOIN US, as we work really hard and always love to welcome a new face to the advocacy club!!
The last ingredient that always feels like a cause for celebration is the sharing of vast amount of education and hope about the disease, often surrounding future treatments and opportunities for a deeper understanding of what the hell actually causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease. There is a wonderful opportunity to stay up-to-date on cutting edge education as a result of the hard work of many clinicians, advocates, and organizations - which always leaves me feeling thankful for the fact that i've stumbled upon their work. Sharing resources with each other throughout #ccawarenessweek helps to support hope for a better tomorrow with Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis... which is a big reason why we're all here in the first place: we want things to be better for ourselves, but mainly for our fellow patients who are newly diagnosed or struggling.
Does this disease suck? Honestly, yup. It does. But awareness week helps my experience with Crohns disease feel a bit less shitty and reminds me of the amazing community that surrounds me every day, and for that, i'm incredibly thankful.