Meet Sherry Pang, Community Engagement Coordinator at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and Crohn’s warrior. Sherry shares her story living with Crohn’s disease and why – now more than ever – we must work together to find the cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
I recently celebrated my birthday, quietly, with a homemade birthday cake but no warm embraces from my husband and two sons, who were self-isolating away from me. This is our new reality. For most people, turning 58 years old would not have been a milestone.
For me, it was.
This birthday marked 40 years since the day my life changed from being a healthy teen to a person with a chronic illness. On my eighteenth birthday, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Of course, eighteen meant that I was invincible. So when the gastroenterologist told me there was no cure, I didn’t really think it applied to me.
Today, I know that was a stage called denial.
Since that time, I have had five bowel surgeries, two temporary ileostomies, one hernia repair, spent months at a time in the hospital, countless trips to ER and was once on intra-venous nutrition (TPN) for a year and a half.
Nurses, doctors and surgeons saved my life when my bowel once perforated and I became septic. They have cared for me and nursed me back to health more times, than I can count. While most of the world is just recognizing their sacrifices now in this pandemic, they have always been heroes in my world.
Yes, Crohn’s has knocked me down quite a bit but I always get back up. It has affected my education, career choices, relationships, and travel. It was especially heartbreaking when Crohn’s complicated my plans to start a family.
However, Crohn’s has also taught me so much. Long recoveries have taught me to be patient, unpredictable flare-ups and ER trips have taught me to be flexible. I know the isolation of being alone in hospital for weeks or months at a time. I know the anxiety of the unknown. The social distancing from others. The financial impact of not being able to work.
I have known pain and fear. Crohn’s has shown me all of that. Crohn’s has taught me to be strong, resilient and brave. These are the superpowers that all of us with chronic illness can use in this time of global uncertainty.
Over the years, the superpower that I have drawn my biggest strength from is hope
. For 25 years now, I have fundraised for research to find cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis because research brings me the greatest hope.
Right now, across the world, we are all scrolling Twitter and CNN wishing for news of a COVID-19 cure, cheering for a researcher in an unknown lab somewhere to be a hero. This is something that we in the Crohn’s and colitis community have done for the lifetime of our diagnosis.
We have all cheered on our researchers from the sidelines; the way we have cheered on Team Canada in overtime at the Olympics, waiting eagerly for the winning goal; the next new treatment, the next new discovery. In this pandemic, we find ourselves among the most vulnerable. There is no time like the present to support our
IBD researchers – to maintain the momentum we have – the IBD research underway - they are our
(Yes, live in the present. That is another lesson Crohn’s has taught me.)
Stay gutsy! We will weather this storm.
Here are some tips for coping during in this time of uncertainty:
- Be kind to yourself
- Remember this is temporary
- Practice wellness breathing exercises
- Control what you can: wash your hands, self-isolate, stay on your IBD medications
- Connect with friends, family and the Crohn’s and colitis community for support
- Turn to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada – we are here for you.