My name is Rosa. I'm 23 years old, and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 11. I graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2016 with a degree in Medical Sociology. I'd like to go back to school at some point, and get a degree in disability studies, social work/counseling, or public health (I still haven't decided which!) I'm hoping to find a job that allows me to use my own experiences with chronic illness to help others dealing with similar issues and frustrations!

Though IBD has had the biggest impact, I've also dealt with other chronic health conditions my whole life. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease when I was a year old, and various other inflammatory conditions over the past few years (gastritis, uveitis, rosacea, psoriasis, arthritis...the list goes on). A lot of these are complications caused by IBD, which is frustrating because even when my IBD is technically in 'remission,' I’m still dealing with all these complications. Trying to manage all of this can sometimes feel like a full-time job, and definitely takes a toll on my mental health.

In college, I was able to focus most of my research on the social/emotional impacts of chronic illness, which was a really powerful experience for me. It led me to an online community of other individuals dealing with the frustrations of autoimmune conditions. I ended up writing my thesis about how individuals with "invisible illnesses" often feel their experiences are not taken seriously, and the misconceptions they face. For the first 20 years of my life, I was afraid to talk about my health because I didn't think anyone would understand what I was going through - so it was incredibly eye-opening to read other people's illness narratives and realize that I wasn't the only one with these experiences. This realization encouraged me to find ways of getting involved, so I could help support others living with chronic conditions.

This past year, I've been trying to make connections with more people with IBD/chronic illnesses. Doing this has helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and less alone; and it has inspired me to get more involved in advocacy projects. I feel like I've come so far these past few years, in terms of my ability to speak out about illness/disability. I'm so excited to join the PAC and ImproveCareNow, and work with the incredibly passionate members who have created such great resources and community for individuals with IBD! :-)  


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