The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recently took over Grand Central (New York City) showing REAL patients, REAL stories and REAL facts about Crohn’s, Colitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease in general.

NYC Crohn's and Colitis Foundation Awareness Campaign: Someone You Know Has Crohn's or Colitis

I found it not only inspiring, but honestly, a breath of fresh air. I know it sounds odd, but there are things people are afraid of talking about: bowels being one of them. Whether we care to admit it or not, there’s a negative stigma tied around living with diseases of the digestive tract. For some reason, people only see it as the symptoms we face and not the condition at large.

People don’t want to hear about things that make them uncomfortable, leaving patients in the dark and unable to discuss what’s really going on with their bodies. – Unfortunately, this does not cause symptoms to subside. – Something I had to learn the hard way. Avoiding talking about our conditions doesn’t make it any less real. Actually, it can make it worse.

Years before I was diagnosed, I was silent. I was embarrassed of the changes I saw in my body and instead of facing the problem head on, I chose to ignore it. For a while I lived in a lie and it didn’t stop after I was diagnosed. When I needed time out of (high) school for colonoscopies, I told my friends I was having surgery. I didn’t know of anyone else my age being scoped and I didn’t want to be seen as gross or weird. I chose to continue that lie for a very long time.

What this billboard means to me…

It isn’t a cure, but it’s important. This is the beginning of a very difficult conversation. This is hope. This is real.

shawntel bethea lilly stairs crohn's and colitis foundation nyc billboard

This is what 17-year-old me needed back in 2009. I needed to see myself as more than, “just a patient”, but a person. A person with a serious condition. A person with opportunities and a life beyond stigma, symptoms and this life altering disease. I needed to know it was okay to talk about it.

SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS CROHN’S OR COLITIS.

End the stigma.

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