Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guest Post: Michele's Story

It is completely refreshing to find someone living with IBD who epitomizes optimism and energy. Luckily, we have a blog from one such person: Michele is the President of the 3C Foundation of Canada, a member of Gut Inspired, and someone who has a strong voice that is instrumental in raising awareness about IBD.

All we have to say is, go Michele!

I love presents!  Maybe that’s why one of my favourite expressions is ‘life is a gift, unwrap the ribbons.’  I was reflecting on this expression recently as I sat on my dock taking in the beautiful sunset… in my ever optimistic quest to ‘unwrap the ribbons,’ I took some time to think about the good things in my life that have come about as a result of my journey with Crohn’s disease. 

As I metaphorically untied the ribbons on my ‘gift’ of Crohn’s related life experiences I was filled with a sense of gratitude.  I can honestly say that although it has been a difficult path, my journey with Crohn’s has also has given me a great deal to be thankful for and I have learned some valuable life lessons.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is to embrace the fact that Crohn’s disease does not define whom I am, and to acknowledge that it plays an important role in shaping me as a person.  My life path has changed considerably since being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and yet I am grateful for the opportunities I have experienced as a result.  I am extremely thankful for some of the most remarkable, extraordinary, talented, successful and beautiful people I know who are living with IBD as they have touched mylife in a significant way and left footprints on my heart forever.

I have learned to choose not to be offended by others, or be ashamed and embarrassed by this disease - I have come to realize that these emotions (which could easily consume me) are experienced only when I allow them to.  Keeping perspective on the fact that others do not truly understand and are not educated about Crohn’s disease helps me to avoid falling into a mindset of negative emotions.  Although it took me many years, I am thankful that I have learned to walk with confidence and a smile on my face to send the message to others that I am self-assured and will not be defined by this disease.  I am thankful for the awareness that although this disease may at times devastate me physically and emotionally, it can never destroy my spirit!

I have also learned the importance of educating myself about this disease, which has empowered me to make informed decisions and take positive steps as an active participant in my own health care, with a sense of control over my journey.  Sharing my knowledge with others has helped to promote awareness and I am filled with hope that educating others will change attitudes around the stigma associated with the symptoms of IBD.  Being informed has given me the confidence to overcome my once quiet and private nature in order to offer support to others.  I am incredibly thankful for volunteer opportunities that have come about as a result of living with Crohn’s disease.  It is exceptionally rewarding to be a part of making a positive difference for others and I am always amazed by the fact that even though I set out with the intent of helping others, I am the one who walks away feeling inspired and blessed by those I’ve had the privilege of working with. 

While savouring the moment the sun finally dropped behind the horizon, I felt gratified that I had taken the time to ‘unwrap the ribbons’ and reflect upon the good things that I have experienced as a result of living with IBD.  Each life, even one touched by Crohn’s disease, truly is a gift… unwrap the ribbons!


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