It has been a while since I have put fingers to keyboard to blog about things close to my heart, but as May marks ‘Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month’, it is only natural I write a feature blog on one of my best friends, Rachel Nugent, who battles this disease fearlessly every day of her life.
I have known Rachel since I was around 14 when we went to hip-hop classes together (hilarious, I know), but I have always known her as a happy, positive and care-free girl. If something was ever wrong, all she had to do was stick on her earphones and play ‘Cascada-Everytime We Touch’ until she was feeling better. Or was it Tiesto?
But despite being obsessed with terrible EDM and hip hop dancing, she always seemed have these bouts of sickness which had never been explained. Her back would give her problems, damaging her thriving hip-hop career (if you can’t already tell, this is a joke), her mouth would be full of ulcers making it difficult for her to speak and her foot would randomly swell making it look like a ballooned animal. Her symptoms were so random, that it took until Rachel went to A&E with excruciating stomach pains for them to discover she suffered from Crohn’s disease. In 2014, after being put on steroids, she suffered depression which she eventually overcome, until she was discovered to have an abscess in her bowel. After this Rachel then underwent a ileostomy, or for the every day person – “The bag”.
So what is Crohn’s?
I don’t want to go online and get some faceless definition from a health website. So in Rachel’s own words, Crohn’s is “the devil lol”. But in all seriousness, she sent me this as the best definition of the disease.
Crohn’s is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut. As well as affecting the lining of the bowel, Crohn’s may also go deeper into the bowel wall. Crohn’s is a chronic condition. This means that it is on-going and life long.
How it has affected her
So far you have only heard a very brief overview of Rachel’s story, and it does not show the fear, anxiety or the pain that Rachel had to feel throughout the last few years. Before people knew Rachel suffered from Crohn’s, and due to the severe swelling of her lips, she went under intense scrutiny from the local area over an alleged ‘lip job’. I spent the majority of my energy explaining to these people that Rachel suffered from a disease that even I didn’t understand and that she hadn’t had her lips done. There were times when Rachel couldn’t even produce words from her mouth because her lips were giving her that much pain. It broke my heart, I couldn’t even imagine how she felt.
A lot of people didn’t know Rachel was going through the post-traumatic stress of one day having full control of your body, and the next having to rely on a bag. This played on Rachel’s mind for months, severe anxiety haunted her behind closed doors, depression came as a side-effect of the steroids – despite partying with her friends almost every weekend – it took her a while to come to terms with the disease.
Where is she now?
After her disease meant that she had to quit her education in Belfast, Rachel then trained with numerous MUA’s and is now one herself. She has set up her own Make-Up Salon from her house where she performs literal miracles on people like myself. Currently, her ileostomy is temporary and there is always hope that she will be able to get the bag off, but right now she is focused on raising awareness for this invisible disease.
But she still gets her bad days, despite being the most incredibly positive person I have ever come across! She has expressed her fears over not financially being able to cope as you never know when the next bout of sickness is going to come, not meeting someone who understands fully how to handle this disease, never being able to move away as she relies so heavily on the NHS and her mum and dad. She has helped my own family with advice and tips on the bag, always offering herself up as someone for them to talk to about it.
She is one of my biggest inspirations, and she should be yours too. x
How can you help?
Share this blog, let your Facebook followers see how Crohn’s can affect someone.
Or you can attend Rachel’s Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Casino Night in Sense Nightclub on the 26th May. Event details @ https://www.facebook.com/events/125075944713760/
Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.