Your Name: Kate Mason
Your age group? 25-29
Where are you from? Muskoka, Ontario
Your profession? Nurse
How many years since you were first diagnosed? 9 years
Diagnosis? Crohn's Disease
What do you wish someone had told you when you were newly diagnosed?
To expect the unexpected in order to make sure that setbacks don't get you too down. Also, for many people, the first year following diagnosis is often when they are the sickest, and that was certainly true in my case. I would have liked to have that sense of hope that my life wasn't always going to be so totally consumed with doctors visits, hospitals and pain.
What is a favourite go-to, safe food for you when you are feeling unwell?
Soups, smoothies, Tumeric golden milk. Basically anything liquid or made in a blender! For dessert: avocado pudding (chocolate almond milk + banana + avocado). Also rice. Lots of rice.
Do you have a hot tip for how to get through a colonoscopy or a funny colonoscopy story you'd like to share?
For my last colonoscopy I treated it like a three-day juice cleanse and did a day of silence on the final prep day (kind of like a mini meditation retreat but set in a bathroom as opposed to a yurt in the woods). The fresh squeezed juices in the days leading up to the colonoscopy made me feel like I was doing something healthy for myself rather than depleting myself. And the silence was great because I couldn't complain about how I was feeling which made me think less about it.
Describe your relationship with IBD:
In the past few years, it has become my barometer for stress. It has been the insistent, impossible-to-ignore voice forcing me to slow down.
What would you like to share with this community about your experience with IBD?:
There are so many things I want to share and hear about from others! Like the long and winding road to diagnosis, living with a puffy steroid face, navigating restaurant menus with diet restrictions, favourite tricks for getting through flare days..
Lately I've been thinking about the 'warrior' approach to managing illness that is so prevalent (at least in North America I find that to be the case). I like the idea of reaching towards qualities like strength and optimism when you are feeling challenged but I also think that when you have a chronic (i.e lifelong) illness there will inevitably be times when you just can't suit up in your warrior armour and that needs to be okay. Some days I can easily accept my symptoms, other days I get frustrated with my body for revolting against me and am not able to handle how my situation with grace or humour. I find I feel really disappointed in myself on the days when I catch myself feeling grumpy or angry and I think that has a lot to do with the cultural imperatives to 'stay positive' and to 'fight' when you are sick. If having a warrior approach to your own illness makes you feel strong and empowered then that is amazing. But we can't expect others to have that same approach or else we risk isolating each other further. To fight and be positive is a lot to expect of someone dealing with a flare up of a chronic illness and I wonder if these expectations may be impacting the kind of (honest) conversations people are willing to have about their illness experience.
I have found it important to have people in my life who I can not only share the high moments with but who I can also talk honestly to about low moments, and I hope that's what we can offer each other here!
The intersection between IBD and mental health more generally is one that, I think, could be talked more about and is important to consider as a part of a treatment plan. I think there is so much to talk about, and I am excited to hear what others are most interested in talking about!
What has been the most helpful things for you as you manage your illness? (This may be the medication you are on, your hot water bottle, your support system, an alternative medicine therapy, a book.. anything!):
Kripalu Yoga + my magic beans (a hot water bottle alternative!)