Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh My Bag!

Being greeted with “Oh no, it’s her again!” - even if in sarcasm - isn’t the best way to start a trip to the blood lab. The clinic has become all too familiar, most notably the excessively long wait and the slight bell sound the clicker makes when the next person is being called to register. It’s just annoying, and seems to serve as a black hole, consuming both my day and my patience. An older man was standing next to me as I shifted from foot to foot endlessly, he sighed and asked if it was ever quicker. I smiled, and informed him - no.

The blood techs promised to pray before sticking me, and I half confessed/half whined that I had just come from yoga and hoped that may help - in what way, I have no sweet clue, but I felt the need to mention it. It only took two stabs and there was almost a little party in the booth when the two techs managed to get it (“We’ve struck gold!”). Right before I was all set to go, my ostomy gurgled and the tech asked if my stomach was grumbling. I laughed, and said “Sure”.

One thing down, one to go. As my massive supply of ostomy bags and accessories dwindles (and takes up a large chuck of the bathroom, much to my sister’s insistent complaining), I had to go and get some more things. My American insurance when I’m at school lets me just order the supplies online and they come - without a bill - and that’s that. My Canadian insurance, however, will pay 100% for the supplies, but this comes as a reimbursement and not as ‘free supplies up front.’ So fine, I thought (stupidly), and went off to the drug store. As I approached the home healthcare section, the woman looked at me as if I was lost, me in my yoga clothes traipsing towards a wall of large ostomy boxes. It was fun, I have to say, shopping for ostomy things in person, even having the chance to groan over the yucky hospital supplies they hand out and the nice ones that I prefer (ostomies are no different than clothing, some you love, some you’d never wear if someone paid you). This all seemed like fun and games until I spotted the price. A box of 20 mini bags - $125. I am a little decadent, I use small bags during the day since I find it easier to dress in, and big bags at night, but come to think of it, it’s poop and it seems only sanitary to change the bag frequently. They didn’t have some of my supplies - which means I’ll have to go back and grudgingly fork over my VISA again - but what I did buy was upwards of $250. Oh my word that’s expensive, it is insane and I still can’t believe it. We may be able to go into an ER for free in Canada, but we still need insurance to get our drugs and bags.

The biggest thing that bothered me - besides the dent in my banking account - was the fact that it was almost as if I was some mythical teenage ostomy patient who didn’t exist. It was set up for older people with ostomies, as if it’s impossible to be young, active, and have a life with an ostomy. The woman was half amazed and half stupefied when I pulled my leggings down just a touch to read the number on the bag to find it on the shelf. I wanted to say, “Hi, I’m Jennie, I have an ostomy and I’m not eighty, thanks.”

And as my day became an unexpected one to ponder IBD, my copy of “Tales From The Throne” arrived and I ripped open the package and marveled at the shiny book. I was so proud to hold it in my hands and to know that we as a generation have contributed it. Even though my own stories are included and I spent countless hours editing the book, I couldn’t help but sit and reread the stories, amazed before more and feeling connected to the world of IBD. Whoever said IBD was an invisible disease has clearly never seen any of us, with the scars lacing up our arms and our bellies, and for those like me with a quiet little bag hugging our fronts. I love my scars, my medical tattoos, proclaiming that not only I am here, but I’m alive.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Face Forward

As May dwindles away and June lies eagerly in wait, my mind can’t help but drift to the festivities in store. June means a few things to me - a month to my birthday, the traditional last month of school, and the Heel n’ Wheel a thon. Unbelievably so, but nonetheless still true, this Heel n’ Wheel (HnW) will be the 8th time I participate and volunteer.

The first HnW I attended back in 2004 made me so nervous that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It marked the first time I was going to socialize with other IBDers, and because I didn’t consider myself really one yet, I was hesitant to do so, dragging my heels the whole way there. I had made a good friend in junior high whose mother had IBD and was involved, so at the very least the saving grace seemed to be that I could run off with my friend and pretend like I didn’t have a disease that needed a cure. It was similar to the first time I was in an M&M shop after my diagnosis, I almost had a panic attack when I saw the donation box on the counter for the CCFC - all I could think was that I must be really sick if there were donation boxes in a store for the disease that I had.

Timid and mute, I shuffled along behind my parents when we arrived to help out before that first HnW, trying to figure out where I might fit in. Someone handed me the face paints and pointed to a table and suggested my friend and I do that. That seemed simple enough, and didn’t put me in a ‘HEY I HAVE IBD’ shirt, much to my relief. Since then, I have spent every HnW painting faces and adhering temporary Gutsy tattoos on hands and cheeks, the ‘war paint’ so to speak of the HnW. Last year I got so excited to use the face paints that I wrote ‘I have Crohn’s - ask me!’ down the side of my leg. I’ll have to think up something equally as clever and time-consuming for this year’s HnW.

This year like many years, I’m honored enough to be asked to speak before the ribbon gets cut and we’re off to the races. As much as I look forward to speaking, how does one go about compressing their medical history, personal journey, experience with the CCFC, and some humor into a five minute speech? I do my best to pluck a single memory from my IBD past and convey it as honestly as possible, throw in a joke or two, and call it a speech. This year, I just might have to draw on all of these blogs and our book - what can I say, I’m shameless about promoting The Gutsy Generation.

Be it with face paints or tattoos, or just a big smile, I’ll be at the HnW ready to run for the cure - face forward to the future.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Elephant Who Wanted To Be An Ant

I’m apparently having a size identity crisis.

Now that I find myself two feet on the ground in Nova Scotia, amidst my childhood surroundings, I keep wondering to myself how I want to be perceived and considered. It wasn’t even a year ago when I was back home with a colon, babysitting, and doing endless sudokus while my blood supply drained into the toilet. What’s so different about last year Jennie and this year Jennie besides an ostomy? In some ways it feels like everything - I feel more empowered and more determined to be a part of the cure and the battle for awareness, empathy, and equality.

I don’t really consider myself to be sick, however stupid or oblivious that sounds. Sometimes I’ll catch myself saying things like “Last year when I was really sick” and for a brief moment I can’t believe I’m talking about my life because I don’t think of it as a ‘sick’ one. Why? Because it’s my life and I know that there’s a lot more to me than being sick - I’m the girl who uses her library cards so frequently she’s memorized the number, drinks tea after every meal, and always comes to a complete stop at a stop sign. Albeit small and insignificant facts, they are just as important as my medical history in determining who I am. And so, maybe just for that reason that everything has normalized, I find myself brooding and sulking over the lack of fuss or interest any remnants of hometown friends express towards my post-surgical state. While I don’t think that tragedies and hard times can - or should - be compared, I am all too aware of the things many people I know are having to deal with: the loss of a family member, bankruptcy, divorce, other illnesses. But I watch as everyone clammers to help the fallen, differences put aside to help the one in need, I wonder why this wasn’t the case for me for the people who I grew up with. I never want to be the victim, but I want to know that I’m cared about and a la Carol King, if I need them, they’ll follow.

So why was it different for me? Here are my theories. A) I am the elephant who wants to be the ant, who acts like the ant, who believe it’s an ant, so therefore people treat me like an ant - aka I act like IBD isn’t a big deal so no one gets that it is. B) The whole bathroom/bowel thing is enough to scare people away. C) They weren’t great friends to begin with. D) They didn’t know what to do.

It goes something like this: we want so much to be normal but we also want so much for people to understand that we’re different. Can we have the bread buttered on both sides? I don’t think they are mutually exclusive things, because at the end of the day we’re not normal and deserve to be treated equally like everyone else but also justly considering our circumstance. I may be an elephant who thinks it’s an ant, but come rain or shine, I’m still a freaking elephant no matter what I think and everyone should see that.

I’ll stop brooding and frowning, I don’t need the frown lines or the annoyance it causes. I’ll be the elephant I am, one with an identity crisis perhaps, but one that can make a whole lot of noise when she wants to (and she plans to).


You Can Make a Difference!!!

Hey Gutsy Generation!

I came across yet another inspirational story. I wanted to post it here (see below) to show that youth can do a lot, especially when it comes to IBD in the community. Although Ally is doing great things in the USA, she's inspired me to push a little more and see what I can do in Canada... and where I live.

I want to challenge not only myself but each of you to make a goal to achieve in the next 1-3 months. It doesn't have to be big, it just has to mean something big to you! Something that if you did it, it would make you feel more empowered than you do right now...

Get ready...


Go for it!!!!!

Hugs Ashley :)

How Youth Advocate Ally Bain Discovered Her Voice

Ally Bain in front of the Capitol building

When Ally Bain was 11 years old, her pediatric gastroenterologist diagnosed her with Crohn's disease. Now a college student, Ally is one of a growing number of motivated young people affected by Crohn's or ulcerative colitis who are spreading awareness about IBD.

After her diagnosis, Ally's gastroenterologist recommended the family research additional information and get involved with CCFA.

"Even at a young age, I felt empowered in knowing that while I could not cure the disease, I was able to take control through education and awareness," Ally says. "I was, and still am, extremely grateful to CCFA for helping to provide these resources. The organization is a positive catalyst in allowing patients and their families and friends to not feel alone and to join in a common cause."

When she was 14 years old, she worked on getting a bill introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would allow anyone with a medical emergency access to an employee-only restroom. What was then a bill has since become law in Illinois, as well as in several other states, and is commonly referred to as the Restroom Access Act or "Ally's Law."

Speaking as a patient advocate on behalf of CCFA, Ally also recently testified in front of the United States Department of Justice to get the Restroom Access Act adopted into the Americans with Disabilities Act. "I will work to get the Restroom Access Act passed in additional states as well as on a federal level so that everyone will be granted their right of access to a restroom," she says.

"Speaking from personal experience, I have been fortunate enough to understand the value and importance of youth getting involved in advocacy efforts," says Ally. "Youth can lead the country in a culture of empowerment and a movement for positive change. They can help educate and encourage others to join a cause. By becoming advocates, young people are able to discover their voice."

She says it is especially important for those with chronic illnesses to become advocates because it can change their entire perspective on having the disease. "Due, in part, to coming to terms with having Crohn's and learning the importance of advocating on behalf of others with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, I have realized my purpose in wanting to help educate others."

Two years ago, Ally joined CCFA's National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), which works to improve the lives of those with IBD through advocacy, awareness, and fundraising. "As a Council, we have participated in IBD Day on the Hill as well as fundraisers like Phones for Crohn's," Ally says. "We have also worked towards individual goals, including establishing a campus group, called the Crohn's and Colitis Student Forum, on our college campuses."

Of course, Ally is still aware of the stigma that surrounds IBD. "When I was in high school, many of my closest friends became my worst bullies when they got sick of me being sick. They stopped talking to me. Sometimes, they would even bend over, grab their stomachs, laugh and complain, 'Oh, look, I have Crohn's Disease.'"

But Ally strongly believes that educating people will allow for patients to have a better chance of coming to terms with their illness and joining the cause as advocates.

"I will continue to help spread awareness, fundraise, and advocate so that we may all feel empowered in our ability to lead productive, successful, and healthy lives."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Serenity, Courage, Wisdom

We’re all about fighting, whether it’s our disease, the stigma, or the chance for the future we want. We fight until we’re blue in the face, knuckles bleeding, and if you’re like me, having a small asthma attack as you steady yourself for the next round. We don’t have normal boundaries: the unfairness is inside of us, it’s not something external that happened to us as much as it’s something happening within us. In the blessings of attributes, we got a little too much courage and someone else’s wisdom.

Can you really have too much courage? I’m not sure. But I know that for myself, the line between what I can change and what I can’t is blurred, I drew a line in the sand but it’s been washed away with the tide. I can change certain aspects of myself - my behavior, the shoes that I wear - but I cannot change my disease, no matter how determined I am to do it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try, it doesn’t mean I don’t reject asking for help when I need it, and it doesn’t mean that it’s not so painful when my greatest wish doesn’t come true.

When I first heard the infamous quote, I was offended, because it was a grandparent and I was sure they meant that it was my fault for having Crohn’s and ‘allowing’ myself to be sick. I felt responsible for the ulcers, responsible for the pain, responsible for the worried looks on my parents’ faces. But as I got older and got sicker, as I decided to have surgery and went back to school and raised my hand before the question was asked, I wondered and still do if I really know what I can and cannot change, what is really within my power and what is not. The simple answer: my attitude is within my control, my disease not so much. The complicated question: where does one begin and the other end? If we’re supposed to accept what we cannot change, then why does letting go sometimes feel like giving up?

Now that I’m home and have access to a kitchen again, I have been busy cooking and baking and tasting my creations. I was leafing through a cupcake cookbook, drooling at the delicious pictures, and tried to decide which ones to make. But I couldn’t, they all looked so good and I wanted all of them. And so I decided to make all of them. I wanted what I wanted and I was darn well going to do it.

But that’s cupcakes. That’s flour and eggs and sugar at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. That’s not my disease, not my life. I want to do so much in my life and I can’t say no to what I want, I push myself to do it. And I’m happy that I do, because I love every inch of my life and wouldn’t change a nanosecond. But maybe I need a little more serenity and a little less courage to take on the world and my disease, to realize that at the core of my being I am different from a healthy person - not that I can’t accomplish my dreams, but that my lines in the sand keep disappearing while theirs do not.

Be brave. Be optimistic and curious and passionate and fearless and vulnerable and willing to make a mistake. And always be truthful to your body and to your circumstances. There are thousands of days left to be lived, days to grow wise understanding serenity, courage - and ourselves.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

'Tales From the Throne' has Arrived!

We are so proud to announce our book, 'Tales From the Throne', and that it's now available to buy here. All of the profits will go back to the CCFC in our fight to find a cure.

We have been working on this project for such a long time, and our accomplishment is only further proof that committed, determined, resilient people can do anything - like finding the cure.

Happy reading,
Jennie + YAC

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Bonjour Gutsy Generation,

Le 19 mai 2011 aura lieu la deuxième édition de la journée mondiale des maladies
inflammatoires de l'intestin (MII). En cette occasion spéciale, nous sommes fiers de vous
présenter Gut Inspired

Gut Inspired est un groupe formé de Canadiens vivant avec la maladie de Crohn et la
colite ulcéreuse qui ont réuni leurs forces afin d'accroître la sensibilisation aux MII et
partager leurs expériences personnelles dans le but d'aider les personnes vivant avec les
MII à bien vivre avec leur maladie.

Gut Inspired a été développé par - des patients pour les patients, en collaboration avec
des partenaires communautaires, afin d'informer le public sur les MII et réduire la
stigmatisation associée à ces maladies. Nous partageons ouvertement nos défis et nos
expériences personnelles afin d’inciter d'autres personnes souffrant d'une MII à faire de
Nous encourageons les personnes vivant avec une MII à être informées et devenir un
membre actif de leur santé et de leur équipe de soins. Gut Inspired estime que vous
pouvez bien vivre avec une MII si vous vous informez sur la maladie et sur les différentes
options de traitements qui s’offrent à vous. Ainsi, vous serez en mesure de prende des
décisions éclairées avec votre équipe de soins.

En l’honneur de cette journée, s’il vous plaît, aidez-nous à passer le mot et encouragez
les autres à partager leur histoires à l’adresse: youtube.com / gutinspired

GutInspired - A Group of Canadians Living with IBD!!!

Hey gutsy generation!

I wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow is world IBD day!!!

I also wanted to introduce you to a great group of individuals living with IBD that have called themselves "GutInspired".

Here's more info on their group!!!!

Living Free with IBD

May 19, 2011 is the second annual World Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Day. On this
important occasion, we are proud to introduce you to Gut Inspired.

Gut Inspired is a group of Canadians living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
who have joined forces to increase the awareness of inflammatory bowel disease in
Canada, offer support for individuals living with IBD and provide personal experiences
to assist others living with IBD learn how to better manage their disease.

Gut Inspired has been developed by patients for patients, working together with
community partners to inform the public about IBD and reduce the stigma associated
with digestive disease. We openly share our challenges and personal experiences with
others to help individuals living with IBD do the same.

We encourage other individuals living with IBD to become informed patients and an
active member of their healthcare team. Gut Inspired believes that you can live free with
IBD, if you learn about the disease, educate yourself about treatments available to you
and ask your healthcare team informed questions.

In honor of this day, please help us spread the word and encourage others to share
their stories at: www.youtube.com/gutinspired

Check out these cool videos:

Jodi is Gut Inspired:

Kevin is Gut Inspired

Enjoy Guys!

Happy World IBD Day this May 19th, 2011!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Best Foot Forward

My personal story in our book to be released in 2 days eeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Speaks a bit about the Heel n wheel athon. I'm sure that through reading our blog and getting familiar with the gutsy generation and the CCFC you must have heard some things about the upcoming heel n wheel events and this is because the heel n wheel is an event that many of us hold very dear to our hearts. Personally the heel-n-wheel a-thon is the first CCFC event that I ever attended and it has, and continues to make a huge posotive impact on my life. That first heel n wheel gave me a great sense of purpose and ownership in the fight against a disease in which I knew very little about. Months after my diagnosis I packed up all of my friends and family and we drove from Nanaimo to Victoria (a near 2 hour drive) to take part in our first heel n wheel. I hadn't anticipated the overwhelming support I would receive from my friends and family and was blown away by the support I was shown both financially and physically (and the people that came to walk along with me!)! What was even more overwhelming however was the amazing sense of belonging and partnership I felt, and continue to feel at each heel n wheel. The camaraderie and support of all of these people who are out to fight in our mission to find a cure for this disease, my disease, is truly inspiring! The heel and wheel has given me the chance to be more open about my disease and share what I am going through with many. It also gives me the opportunity yearly to get my friends and family together and introduce them to my other family, the Crohn's family, I had no choice in picking them but when we all get together we really do have a great time. The heel n wheel is an event that doesn't require a ton of effort on my part (except for that I am part of the planning team in Nanaimo this year), but the event provides an opportunity for me to make a huge difference! In three years I have grown my team "the party poopers" from a small 9 person family team to one with over 40 members who raised nearly 2/3 of the total funds of our entire Nanaimo walk last year. I could not do it without the support of everyone else but the excitement that I feel about attending this event with all of my friends and family, both genetic and medical, must be contagious! I have been known to look forward to the heel n wheel as a time of love and acceptance much like I do Christmas and I am already counting down the days!! I truly encourage you to get involved with your local heel n wheel and I guarantee you will feel this love and support surround you and engulf you in hope for a brighter future. One where we will no longer need to walk to find a cure, because we have found it!

BC/Yukon YAC Rep

Learn more about the Heel n' Wheel here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Countdown: 3 Days to our Book Release!

3, 2, 1, read!

May 19th is literally just around the corner, and we couldn't be more excited! We've been working on our books for the past couple of years, and finally our hard work will be something we can hold in our hands and share with the world.

It's a funny sentiment to be grateful for the disease that rips through our intestines, because we're not thankful or happy about the pain or the suffering, but rather the person those struggles can make us and the friendships and love that survive and thrive in the face of them. So to quote from our soon-to-be-published book, "Crohn’s has made me a much stronger person and these experiences have helped me to prove to myself that I can get through anything, and for this I am truly grateful."

Counting to 3 isn't hard, but living with IBD sure is. Speaking for myself, this book and resource for anyone with IBD would have made a world of difference to me in my journey with IBD, so I can only dream about what it will do for someone else. Our goal isn't to change the world all at once, but step by step we plan to.

Jennie + YAC

PS Did you register for the Heel n' Wheel yet?

Friday, May 13, 2011


Our entire lives, we are faced with odds. Unbeknownst and unannounced to us, every event in life comes attached with a probability, and we try to steer through, wanting to be one in a million.

And usually, for those of us who battle with our bodies, the odds are monumentally stacked against us. The decked is stacked, the dice are loaded, the lottery is rigged against us, it sometimes feels like we’re holding our breath waiting for the repercussions of the war we did not wage against ourselves. For a long time, it made me feel like the odd one out, because I was - every other 12 year old was able to sit in a classroom and not worry about their bowels, every other 12 year old was able to attend school instead of going to a hospital, every other 12 year old seemed to have an accessible future when mine seemed like it did not belong to me anymore.

But let me stop being metaphorical and philosophical, let me get to my simple, important point. The odds were that I was not going to finish this semester, well really, the odds were that I wasn’t going to be able to have a sophomore year. With four hospital stays and a bruised confidence in my health these past few months, the odds - and perhaps the best choice - was for me to go home, and try again next year. The odds were that every doctor and nurse who came in to my hospital room would offer the same well-meaning advice to call my parents and have them take me home. But I don’t do well with odds, because I refuse to be defined by probabilities that don’t account for determination and spirit. The odds were that I was not going to finish the semester, but as of yesterday at 3:45 PM, I did.

Before you project any heroic notions onto me, let me stop you and refuse them. I may have crossed the finish line, but it was only because of the people who helped pick me up, dust me off, and carry me forward. The odds are that I would never have so many generous, amazing, empathetic, and wonderfully good people in my life, and somehow I’m been honored with more than my share. And even though my words of thanks will never repay them properly for their support, encouragement, love, and friendship, the odds are that I’m never going to stop trying.

In statistics, a list of ‘exhaustive possibilities’ includes things like a coin landing on it’s side, things that never really happen, things that aren’t really accounted for, but still possible in some way. The odds may be sky-high against us, we may get beaten down and broken down by the challenges we suffer, but our dreams are possible, attainable, and waiting for us. The odds have made us who we are, have opened our lives to every kind of experience, have broken our hearts and stitched them back together. The odds are that we’ll never stop fighting, which makes the odds that we’ll succeed even greater.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Countdown: 8 Days to our Book Release!

It's only 8 days until our book will be available and you can read all of the amazing stories!

But are you in need of some inspiration right now? No problem, we've got a cure for that. Here is a video that The Gutsy Generation made at a youth leadership retreat, watch it and get inspired .

We also think a quote from our upcoming book might help get you through the next 8 days, so here goes: "The whole experience caused me to grow up pretty quickly, I missed out on a lot of those two years of being a kid, but since then I've adopted a very relaxed attitude and I just go with the flow, no matter what happens. I'm still a kid at heart and I can't wait to see what the future's got in store for me."

Remember to register for the Heel n' Wheel, you will join the Gutsy Generation nationwide in our fight for the cure, and will have a chance to win a free copy of our book!

Jennie + YAC

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More chances to submit your inspiring IBD stories!

Hey Gutsy Generation!

I know we are all getting really excited for the Gutsy book to arrive! And its coming soon, guys!

I also wanted to share with you a great organization called Great Comebacks. They have an opportunity for those with IBD, colon cancer, or ostomy to share their story and inspire others. I know that everyone I have met with IBD is truly a hero and I'd like to encourage you to share your story with others and turn IBD into an empowering opportunity to help others with IBD.

Here is the link to submit your story: https://www.greatcomebacks.com/forms/SubmitStory_US.aspx?lang=en&country=US&requestType=GC_SUBMIT_STORY

The Great Comebacks® Program

The Great Comebacks® Program began in 1984 under the leadership of Rolf Benirschke, with support from ConvaTec. It was designed to raise awareness of quality of life issues for people living with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer or other diseases that can lead to ostomy surgery. Today the Great Comebacks community has spread far beyond its original borders, raising awareness around the globe through inspirational individuals who have chosen to share their stories and offer hope to others facing these diseases and transitioning to life after surgery.

Hugs :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Told You So

I’d say I hate to say it, but, let’s be honest, I totally love it, so here goes, in caps:


Who, you may ask, am I telling?

Good question. I have had at least three doctors and two professors over the past month ask if I was going to take a medical leave from the academic semester. They stared back with misunderstanding when I insisted that I would finish the semester off, nothing was going to get in the way of finishing my sophomore year. Each person who approached the subject did so with great care and good intentions, and yet each attempt was met with me shaking my head and my persistent disapproval. They suggested reducing my course load, I shook my head. They suggested calling in my parents for back up, I shook my head. They suggested taking it easy, I shook my head.

To understand my insistence, let me take you back to an experience I had when I was a little girl. I was (and still am) terrified of carnival rides beyond the carousel, and a trip to an amusement park when I was seven put me in the environment that I could have cared less for. I watched my siblings and friends wait in lines for big, scary rides, while I happily stayed on the firm ground beneath my feet. My Mom - someone who loved rides at my age - wanted to help me get over my fear and she bribed me (with a loonie, what can I say, $1 seemed like a lot to my seven year old self) to go on the ride where you sit in these shell like things and it twirls you around and around on this moving platform. Nervous, I convinced my Mom to ask the guy operating the ride to stop it if I screamed in horror, and he agreed. Satisfied and confident (and newly rich thanks to my shiny gold loonie), I climbed on the ride. It began, slow at first, the movement jolted me, but I held on to the handles and closed my eyes - and maybe prayed a little. But then it was moving too fast, and I felt like I was everywhere at once, I wanted it to stop, so I started screaming to the guy who had promised things would be okay. But he wasn’t paying attention, or maybe he didn’t care, and so around and around and around I went until the ride came to an end.

Having Crohn’s can be like that, we’ve been forced to get on a scary ride and the operator isn’t stopping it despite our incessant screaming. It can make everything difficult - having a job, going to school, having a life - these things all become way more complicated (but not impossible) with an IBD diagnosis. I’ve been on the ride long enough that I can ‘lean into the wind’, I know my body and circumstance well enough to be prepared for illness. And so, when doctors and professors ask if I’m going to step back from school, I shake my head and say no. I will always have Crohn’s and an ostomy, there will always be an excuse - a real, legitimate, honest-to-goodness excuse - but I don’t want to leave a trail of excuses in my wake. It’s like when you sell back your textbooks at the end of the semester, some people have the books still in perfect condition that they barely cracked open, and then there are those people whose books look like they’ve been eaten and have writing in all of the margins. That’s the life I want to lead - a life so lived that it bursts at the seams.

And so, yesterday, when 11 o’clock rolled around and my classes came to an end, my heart started to race with excitement because it meant one thing: I had done it (minus the two finals that I have next week...), I had finished all of my classes. The next time I’m in a lecture, it will be post-summer, I’ll be 20, and I’ll be a junior. I did it, I really did it, I finished my classes.

So to everyone who doubted me, who said that my disease limited what I could do - even if it was with the very best intentions - I only have one thing to say:

I told you so.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gearing up for M&M's BBQ this weekend!

Looking forward to the party this weekend across Canada where everyone raises awareness on Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. Thank you M&M's for making this happen!

Here's some history on M&M's Meatshops and their inspiring story:

HISTORY OF M&M The M&M Meat Shops’ Story

M&M Meat Shops Ltd. was founded in the summer of 1980 in Kitchener, Ontario, with the first store opening in October of that year. The original idea for the company (generated by Mac and Mark, hence the name M&M) was simple – create a place where people could purchase choice cuts of restaurant-quality meat and specialty food items at reasonable prices.

The original product selection of 62 items (mostly frozen), were originally only available in hotels and restaurants. That is, until we brought them to M&M. Today, the M&M product line has expanded to over 375 products, including everything from elegant appetizers, classic one-dish meals, single servings, internationally-inspired entrees and delicious desserts made with only the finest ingredients from around the world. As always, our products are designed to meet the changing needs of consumers and offer convenience, taste, good value and exceptional quality.

Over the past two decades, we’ve adapted to many changes in the food industry, including the mainstream use of microwave ovens, the demand for more heat n’ serve foods, a growing enthusiasm for outdoor barbecuing, the expectations of an increasingly health-conscious society and changes in frozen food technology. Just like the original 62 products that were offered in 1980, today’s M&M products are developed using a method called flash-freezing. This process freezes food at extremely low temperatures in a matter of seconds, preserving the natural texture, taste and nutrients of foods so that when it’s time to prepare, the great taste comes through.

From the start, M&M Meat Shops Ltd. believed in the importance of building and rewarding loyalty to the M&M brand. It’s why customer service became the backbone of our retail environment, and why we’ve always listened to the input of our customers. Over the years, we’ve created a strong brand identity, from our unique no-nonsense packaging, to the creation of our M&M MAX program, which offers special discounts and rewards to our loyal M&M customers.

Along the way, M&M has received a number of prestigious awards – we’ve been named as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies three times, we’ve won numerous awards from the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) for excellence in franchise relations, and we’ve also collected national awards for our achievements in marketing, advertising and community relations. But, in keeping with our humble beginnings, perhaps one of the most memorable M&M moments was setting the Guinness Record for the World’s Longest Sausage (in fact, we’ve held this title twice!).

The growth of M&M has followed a steady rise over the years. The first franchise was opened in June 1981, just nine months after the first store opened in Kitchener. By 1989, we had opened our 50th store, followed by our 100th store opening just three years later. In 1991, we started our cross-country expansion to other provinces. Today, we rank as Canada’s largest chain of frozen food stores with more than 460 locations stretching from coast to coast – you can find M&M in every single province and territory.

We like to think that the history of M&M Meat Shops is truly a Canadian success story!

Here's Info on M&M's and how they help out the CCFC and their amazing work in helping us to raise our goal: To Find a Cure!


Building a strong community is not only a privilege; it's our civic responsibility. A responsibility we answer everyday as proud supporters of a wide range of local charities in the communities we do business. Franchisees are encouraged to support community-based charities and programs, from non-profit organizations to school programs and amateur sports teams. On a corporate level, M&M Meat Shops supports the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC).

In 1989, M&M Founder Mac Voisin started the first chain-wide Charity BBQ Day to raise funds for CCFC. Since its inception, Charity BBQ Day has helped to raise more than $16 million for research into Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

The CCFC is dedicated to raising funds for research into inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a disease affecting nearly 200,000 Canadians. To date, CCFC has invested more than $50 million in major research projects such as:

the CCFC IBD Network
the training of research personnel
the establishment of two world-class Intestinal Disease Research Units at McMaster University and University of Calgary

One of CCFC's recent research initiatives is the IBD Research Scientist Award. This award will provide up to five years of funding to Canadian university-based investigators.

Educating patients, family members, health professionals, and the general public about IBD is also a vital part of the foundation's work.

If you'd like to find out more about CCFC or to make a donation to aid in the search for a cure, http://www.ccfc.ca/site/c.ajIRK4NLLhJ0E/b.6429681/k.8E38/Splash_Page.htm .


Charity BBQ Day COMING UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Hi Gutsy generation!

Just a friendly reminder that M&M's BBQ is coming up across CANADA!!!!!!!!

Here's the Info:

What? M&M Meat Shops 23rd annual Charity BBQ Day to help support the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC).

When? Saturday, May 7th, 2011 from 10 AM – 4 PM

Where? Every M&M Meat Shops location across Canada.
Click here to find a store near you.

Why? To help us reach our goal to raise $1.6 million at this year’s Charity BBQ Day to support Crohn’s and Colitis research.

How? Volunteer, donate or come out and show your support! Receive a hamburger or hot dog, a drink and a bag of chips for a minimum donation of only $2.50.

Become a Star! From April 1st until May 8th, purchase and sign a Charity BBQ Day star at any M&M Meat Shops location for a minimum $2 donation for the CCFC.

For more info:


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to thank you for sponsoring me in the Ride to Conquer Cancer - I am closer to my goal!!!!!!! The ride is in June 2011 but I wanted to keep in touch with you and let you know that my sister and I are training REALLY hard for this ride!

This last Sunday we ran together in the Sporting Life 10km run - a great way to work the same muscle groups needed for cycling in a different way.

Over 15, 000 people came out and we ran through Yonge street in Toronto (Sorry if we blocked traffic :P ) at 8AM. It was such a wonderful experience and the proceeds went to Camp Oochegeas, a kids cancer camp that Courtney (my sister) went to when she had cancer. I am very happy to support this cause (and the Ride to Conquer Cancer).

Thank you for your support and encouragement - it was with me during the entire run this weekend!

Wishing you a happy Tuesday,


P.s. Here's my results:

CONGRATULATIONS! Ashley Andersonhas completed the 2011 Sporting Life Toronto 10k in a time of 1:04:13.

Together, we raised over $1.2 million for Camp Oochigeas, and we should all be proud! We appreciate your feedback so please fill out this survey and be entered into a draw for 1 of 2 New Balance Prize packs or 1 of 3 FREE entries into the 2012 Sporting Life Toronto 10k!
Results by: www.sportstats.ca

Personalize your Sporting Life Toronto 10K Medal with an iTaB.....we love this medal and we want you to feel the same!

An iTaB truly completes your medal with details of your Name and Finish Time engraved on a small plate which fits neatly on to the back of the medal; simply click here to confirm your details and your iTaB will be engraved and sent to you for just $9.00.

For the next Canada Running Series events go to:www.canadarunningseries.com
AND connect to us on Facebook and Twitter from there!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Countdown: 17 Days to Our Book Release!

Less than twenty days, can you believe it?

For everyone who's diagnosed with IBD, it has the same immediate effect - MAJOR interruption. We plan our lives out stage by stage: school, job, vacations, and on and on and on - but not disease. It springs up in the middle of our path and throws us off into the woods, leaving us to fend for ourselves amongst the bears while we try to scramble back to the path.

That's what so great about the CCFC and The Gutsy Generation - no one can map out the journey back to health, but those who've been there before can leave some bread crumbs along the way. Here's a quote from our book about how disruptive an IBD diagnosis can be.

"I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was 22. My story is not one of great heroism, but it is one that is important to me and has played a huge role in shaping me into the person I have become today. After recently finishing my first Bachelors degree with my major in psychology, I was on top of the world and had huge hopes for my future and the start of my first semester in the Bachelor of Education program. I was going to be a teacher, and I was going to make a huge change in this world. Little did I know what my not too distant future held, and the impact I could truly have to make a difference."

Jennie + YAC