The Crucial Role Of Family Support In Navigating Crohn’s Disease

Hello there, my name is Gemma. I’m 27 years old, and a mother to a little girl called Ariella (4) and we are expecting another little bundle of joy in December! I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2021 after a long battle of symptoms, before getting this diagnosis.

Let’s rewind back to when I was younger. I’ve always had trouble with my “bowels.” Stomach cramps, diarrhea, loss of appetite — you name it, I had it. I had gone to the doctors’ multiple times, and was always told it’s just IBS. I was told to contain my diet, or try over-the-counter remedies, but nothing worked. I just had to live on. I managed to simply live with it and tried to get on with my life.

However, in 2020 after giving birth to our daughter, things changed. Around October, my symptoms dramatically worsened. I had lost a lot of weight (unexpectedly), made excessive toilet trips, had a poor appetite and chronic fatigue. However, I just put all of these things down to postpartum…

By January 2021, I was still suffering and just getting on with my daily activities because I presumed it was “IBS.” One day, I was watching “Sam & Billie Faiers: The Mummy Diaries.” Sam was doing a charity run for Crohn’s disease — I had no idea what this was…so I began to Google.

Then it hit me — wow, I think I could have this terrible disease. The symptoms were just me to a T.

I rang the doctors’ back and forth, sending off multiple stool samples…and after doing this for months, I finally got somewhere and was referred for a colonoscopy (FYI, not a pleasant experience). After the scan, they told me it definitely looks like I have Crohn’s disease. Then after a mix up with the GP’s and consultations, I needed more tests. This time an MRI! They needed more “evidence” to prove that I had Crohn’s (even though the colonoscopy showed this).

The MRI wasn’t very pleasant either, but it just had to be done.

In December 2021, I finally had a diagnosis…but did I feel better? Did it give me some relief? YES! YES! YES! I finally had confirmation that I wasn’t making anything up, and by this time, I had lost over a stone in weight and became very sickly.

After receiving my diagnosis, I admit I felt numb and strange…how can this be happening to me? I was only 24 years old, and knew I had to put on a brave face for my little girl. It took me a while to recover and get back to myself. I had gotten an infection, so this delayed my discharge from hospital. When I was discharged, it was the weirdest thing. Everything looked different — life continued in the world with me being stuck in hospital.

Reuniting with my daughter was one of the happiest days of my life. She really helped my recovery!

In June 2022, the disease came back quicker than expected, after more tests. Luckily, they found medication to try to prevent it from spreading further and maintain the disease. After swapping and changing for the past year, due to not working and having reactions.

Fast forward to May 2024, I am doing great…classed as “in remission,” and I am undergoing a healthy pregnancy. I have a great IBD team, consultants available, and regular appointments to discuss any new symptoms or queries.

My journey has been undoubtedly tough, but I have had the most amazing supportive system. I couldn’t have done this without my precious family.

About the author

Gemma Woods