Watching my mother in tears through the glass window panel, I felt pain. Feeling the wires stuck to my chest, I felt cold. Hearing the heart rate monitor race rapidly, I felt scared. Listening to the anesthesiologist who told me to close my eyes, I felt my worries drift away. I awoke in confusion as I was rolled back to the children’s ward of the hospital in a stretcher. The white walls, patients, and doctors blurred into one as I tried to fight off sleep, but it easily won. After hours of sleeping, I awoke to the sound of the doctor’s knocking. He took a seat at the end of my bed and stared into my eyes with a mixture of compassion and sadness. I anxiously waited for him to speak the words that would change my life forever.

After the moment the doctor diagnosed me with Crohn’s disease at age twelve, my life could have gone in many directions, but I chose the path of resilience. I knew that Crohn’s would not lead to the demise of my ambition to succeed. From doctors visits to hospital admissions and procedures, my determination never faded but persisted with my illness. With that in mind, I graduated as my high school’s class valedictorian, formed an IBD and IBS organization on campus, and even advocated for pre-existing conditions in Washington D.C. There have been multiple times where living with IBD has proven to be difficult, but I have learned to appreciate and be grateful for every day.

As a college senior reflecting back on my experiences, I have learned so much about myself through my illness, and if I could share some advice it would be:

  • You are stronger than you think. You have been through so much already and every day you gain the stamina and willpower to overcome, even though it may not feel like it at times.
  • You are never alone. There are others just like you who understand what you are going through. Someone will always be willing to help if you reach out.
  • Do not let your illness be your only identity, but let it become part of your identity.

And, most importantly, do not think about the “what ifs” instead think about the present and everything else will fall into place.


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