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Hello! My name is Taylor Heppner. I am 22 years old (23 on September 25th) and I’m secretly a Harry Potter fan (but shhhhh, I don’t want anyone to know!) I go to the University of Dubuque in Dubuque, Iowa. I'll graduate with my Bachelors of Science in May 2018. I am studying Human Health Science with the hope of being accepted into a Physician Assistant Graduate Program! I love medicine and would love to help others in any way I can.

Along with being a student, I also work as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and a summer camp counselor. During the school year I am a program assistant for a mentoring program for children with extra needs. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2006 when I was only 12 years old. I had a terrible time with my disease in the beginning because medications weren’t working for me. After finding some medications that did work - knock on wood - I've been doing pretty good for the past nine years!

Being diagnosed with UC has taught me a lot of things about myself, including helping me discover my love for helping others in the medical field. I wouldn't change a thing about my disease because it has truly helped shape who I am as a person.

One of my biggest struggles with this disease has been that it's such a hush-hush type of thing. Back when I was first diagnosed I was terrified to let anyone know what I had for fear of being judged or laughed at. In fact, I remember very clearly that moment when I first felt completely free from shame about my disease. It was in my high school speech class and it was the first time I had verbally told anyone what disease I had. It was a great feeling to tell my classmates what I had been dealing with for the past five years. Their reactions weren't what I had expected at all. They were all so understanding and really interested in what I had to say. This was a pivotal moment for me because it really allowed me to be fully comfortable with who I was. Ever since then I have been completely comfortable with my UC and willing to talk to anyone with it. I am currently a mentor for another child with Crohn's and I'm really looking forward to being someone she can come to.

I was first introduced to ImproveCareNow by the nurses at my doctor's office. They told me about this group of kids called the PAC. I was actually lucky enough to get to attend the Community Conference in Dallas this past April. It was a wonderful experience and everyone from the PAC was so welcoming and friendly. It was great to meet a group of young people going through the exact same things as me. Our diseases may not be exactly the same, but that's the great part! We all have very different stories to share, both in our group, and with many others. I look forward to helping raise awareness of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease so others who are diagnosed after me don’t have to wait five years like I did to talk about their disease and find acceptance and support.

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