Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2013

Girls with Guts Retreat

This weekend I was honored to be able to speak at the first ever Girls with Guts retreat in Michigan. I found out about this organization through a good friend Jackie Zimmerman, who was a counselor at Camp Oasis, and who is the president and founder of the organization.

At the retreat, it was an opportunity for about 40 women across the country to come together as an IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) family. Whether you had Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, or an ostomy, there was a common understanding that we all have been through a crazy rollercoaster of a journey, and we can learn from each other. There is something freeing and normalizing about being in a room full of women with a similar illness. I don't think I've ever talked so much about my illness and health for such a concentrated amount of time. I learn a lot and am thrilled to be connected with even more women who have been through similar experiences. There was a phenomenal anthropologist who was at the retreat, ru…

To Everything There is a Season

Fall has arrived here in Chicagoland.  Time for pumpkins on porches and pumpkin spiced lattes, brisk morning walks with the dogs, and evenings around the fire pit.  I really love this time of year - the only downside being that on its heels is a Chicago winter.

In my own experience and talking with people with chronic conditions, many notice a seasonal component to flare ups and remission.  Spring was a time early on in my Crohn's tenure that was a bit more tumultuous.  I'd also have a lot more seasonal allergies, and I wondered if these were somehow related.  Interestingly, now that my illness is in remission I no longer have those allergies.  I don't know why, but I'm just gonna roll with it.

So what does the science say about the seasons and chronic conditions?

Vitamin D levels are related to Ulcerative Colitis activity.  Not exactly a study on seasons, but obviously we get a lot less sun exposure in the winter months.  A 2013 study reports that 68% of people in the …

Leaving a legacy

What would you do differently if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness? Would you change anything about your life? Are there relationships you would invest more in? Or risks you would take? These are questions that many of my cancer patients struggle to answer, as they oftentimes are unable to make it through grueling treatments and the course of their disease. Over the past four years, I have seen many of my beloved patients come and go, some leaving the world behind, some re-entering it as "survivors." The most powerful encounters for me have been when people are approaching death, but have the boldness to talk about it. It gives me chills to get to have intense, meaningful conversations with people that are reflecting on the true meaning of life and what kind of legacy they want to leave. 

I came across an article in Huffington Post this week that some of you may have read as it went viral on the Internet. It was an obituary, but not just any obituary. It was one that…

Workplace What The...?

Greetings.  It's Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week!  I was thinking about a topic to write about when I came across an article about a woman who worked as an editor for Patch (owned by AOL) and some completely incredulous actions taken by her boss in response to her chronic illness and, later, her pregnancy.

Have a seat, this stuff is insane.

"...every time plaintiff showed signs of suffering from her illness, her supervisor would get visibly upset or sigh dramatically and suggest that her job was at risk if she could not overcome her chronic/incurable illness more quickly"

The woman in the story has Crohn's disease, but really she could be living with any chronic condition.  Workplace issues are common for those with chronic illness.  Who to tell, how much to disclose, under what circumstances are just a few questions that make up what can feel like a minefield to navigate.  I wish I could tell people that supervisors, co-workers, or even human resources will…

Book Report

In honor of all the kids going back to school this week, I wanted to do my own book review as I found this book at the library a while back and wanted to share it with you all.

Your Child with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Family Guide for Caregiving
I recently read this book which is published by the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. It was very informative and I'd like to recommend it to patients and parents.

It is written and edited by medical professionals who want to be more educated on their child's condition. It begins by defining the various conditions that make up IBD (Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and indeterminate colitis) and talking about the possible epidemiology of IBD.  The second part of the book touches on diagnosing IBD and goes into the symptoms a child may exhibit. There is a very helpful chapter (5), entitled How to Prepare for a Visit to your Child's IBD Doctor. It gives a comprehensive list of topics…

Stress Science

Ah, stress.  We Americans are a stressed society, aren't we?  I personally avoid watching any sort of TV news and stick with online sources as to limit my exposure to the insanity of the world to controlled doses.  Needless to say it's not surprising that researchers have spent, and continue to spend, a considerable amount of time and money understanding the good, the bad, and the ugly of stress.  Here are some recent findings that I thought would be of interest to our readers - because living with a chronic illness not only adds a layer of stress to life but simultaneously increases our susceptibility to sickness (e.g. flare ups of said illness) during periods of stress.

First up, researchers at Princeton University found that mice who exercised regularly showed improved neurological response to stressors.  Specifically, proteins that get released in a part of our brain called the ventral hippocampus and are implicated in increasing anxiety showed up less in the mice who exer…