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, running focus groups about IBD and the illness experience. Through her groups, we were able to put words to our journeys and talk candidly about what we've been through. I could write so much more, but alas, sleep is important, and so I will leave you with a quote from my presentation that I gave at the retreat.
This weekend marked a powerful gathering of stories. Stories that inspired others, stories that came alongside each other to offer encouragement, camaraderie, and humor. I plan to continue to get to share my story and offer hope to others who have chronic illnesses, and I encourage you to do the same. When we know we are not alone, and have a strong support system, we can live a more whole life and show the world just how strong we are.