Insights From an IBD Patient Advocate

Life takes us on unexpected paths. Although we may not anticipate the twists and turns we face, they become very much a part of our personal journey. As a woman living with Crohn’s disease for the past 20 years, I’ve faced a lot of uncertainty. I’ve undergone major surgeries and numerous extended hospitalizations that have challenged me physically and mentally. Conquering these many physical battles has made me stronger and more resilient. And for that, I am grateful.

Life with IBD is complex and uniquely personal, but it certainly has given me so many skills, and I have learned that patience and perseverance can truly help me achieve success — whether it be at the workplace or with IBD remission. My hope is that my story of resilience can become a source of strength and inspiration for IBD warriors.

How IBD Empowered Me in My Professional Life

One of my personal goals had always been a master’s degree, but I never wanted to step away from work. In my late twenties, I decided to enroll in a fully employed MBA program that would allow me to continue working full-time. I was determined to accomplish my goals and was intentional in the decisions I made to accomplish them, even while sacrificing my health at times. I was not yet diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, although I suffered with many IBD symptoms. But I pushed through the mental and physical fatigue and the chaotic schedule, which in turn affected my meals and my sleep — both crucial in IBD management. After two very exhausting years of work, travel, and school, I graduated with an MBA in global business, then pursued a career in advertising.

I successfully held account management roles at global advertising agencies, traveling extensively for personal and professional reasons, while continuing to face symptoms of IBD. I prioritized work, sometimes while undergoing a flare, medication side effects, or a clear liquid diet for colonoscopy prep. I didn’t share the details of my IBD journey at the office. I’ve often reflected on when I should have prioritized my IBD by taking a sick day or working from home, declining workplace group meals or happy hours and even sleep on business trips. Although much of this was to maintain my work ethic and avoid negative misconceptions, pushing myself was sometimes to the detriment of my health. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the professional growth I’ve gained from living with IBD, such as my ability to handle many stressful situations, solve problems, and plan strategically.

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