On New Year’s Eve, my family has a tradition of writing our New Year’s resolutions on pieces of paper and then sharing them with each other amidst chuckles and teases. However, last year, we decided to do something a little different. “Let’s not choose a resolution,” we said. “And just go with the flow.” That concept could not have been more fitting or appropriate for 2020.

It was a whirlwind of a year. We experienced fear, uncertainty, and loss. For many of us, it was our first experience with a pandemic (unless you know someone who was around for the 1918 flu pandemic!) And as is common with new “firsts”, there was a steep learning curve and lots of adjustments to be made.

I am the kind of person who likes to view the glass half-full, and any lessons I take from life, negative or positive, are still meaningful lessons to me. While we all have had unique experiences with this pandemic, I wanted to share some of what I have learned from the perspective of an IBD patient and an employee in healthcare:

💚 Staying connected to my healthcare team looked different (telemedicine) but was still extremely important. During 2020, at two different points, I developed thyroiditis and had an IBD flare. In each instance, I made sure I communicated directly with my endocrinologist and IBD specialist early and often.

💙 Like many others, I had to watch out for misinformation and information fatigue! I made sure my information came directly from trusted people involved in my care and trusted sources like the CDC and NIH, which have the most recent, updated, and non-bias information on the virus.

💚 No two people’s experience with illness and the pandemic will be the same. With all the looming concerns regarding medications, and in particular, steroids and biologics, I was reminded of the importance of considering the benefit to risk ratio of discontinuing medications versus having an active flare.

💙 The pandemic necessitated my telling my boss about IBD. They are now fully aware of my medical history. It is the first time I have ever shared this information with anyone I work with (anyone with a chronic illness knows the difficulties of being vulnerable and fearful that other’s might cast doubt on your skills and intelligence), but it felt like the right moment to share.

💚 I have always felt confident and safe in my workplace and I am incredibly grateful for that. When COVID-19 protocols were mandated by the state, my supervisor spoke with my colleague and me directly regarding the new extra safety measures that would take place in the office to keep staff and patients safe. My supervisor continues to regularly check in with me to see how I am feeling and to ensure that I keep my own personal appointments! (Thankfully, they are all, except for my colonoscopy, via telemedicine).

All of our social, familial, and professional interactions have certainly been impacted by this pandemic. It is almost bewildering to reflect on how much has changed. My gentle take-away reminders: surround yourself with trusted people who provide comfort and security. Keep your scrolling of COVID-19 related articles focused and to a minimum. And keep moving forward and go with the flow.


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