Having the guts to speak out and end stigma
Sitting in her recliner, Carole Owen looks like a happy and healthy senior.
Her hair is styled, with not a strand out of place, and her makeup has been carefully applied.
She smiles as she talks about her Christmas tree, which she has left up so a friend who is coming to visit can see the ornaments she has collected and put up.
The 69-year-old is happy to have a friend come over, because making plans to leave her South Surrey apartment can be an arduous task. That has been the case for as long as she can remember due to Crohn’s disease, which she was diagnosed with as a child.
“You don’t live with Crohn’s, Crohn’s lives with you,” she said. “If I make an appointment to go down and see a friend, when I walk, I feel it coming on. I don’t go to people’s houses anymore. It can get really lonely.”
Adding to the frustration of living with the inflammatory-bowel disease has been the stigma and embarrassment attached.
Sufferers of Crohn’s disease experience symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss, as well as anemia, skin rashes, arthritis and tiredness.
In order to raise awareness, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation will be holding their annual Gutsy Walk in Surrey this summer. Owen noted that she wasn’t aware of the walk, but applauded the group’s effort to enlighten others about Crohn’s.
“It’s been a long time fighting this battle,” Owen said. “My life revolves around this. If I’m asked on a date, I can’t really commit. And if they ask why, I have to explain I have Crohn’s and what that is.
“It’s one of the worst things you could have – there is a lot of stigma attached.”
Owen recalled a shopping trip at a White Rock thrift store earlier this month. After experiencing intense stomach pain, she asked to use a washroom at the store but was refused.
“I explained to them, I have Crohn’s. Here is my medical bracelet,” she said. “The clerk just said ‘no public washroom.’ That was the first time I’ve ever encountered that kind of treatment.
“The panic was awful. I had to get my friend, Phyllis, to drive me as quickly as possible to my home.”
Owen said that by sharing her story, she hopes those in her community can become more aware of the ailment and be more understanding to those who suffer from Crohn’s.
“There is a lot of ignorance when it comes to Crohn’s,” she said.
“When you tell people you have Crohn’s, they either don’t know what it is, don’t know how it operates or they are unaware of the severity of it.
“Hopefully, this can shed a little light.”
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, there are more than 233,000 Canadians – about one in 150 – living with either Crohn’s or colitis.
The foundation’s 2014 Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis will be held in Surrey at Bear Creek Park, 13750 88 Ave., on June 8. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. with a warmup at 10 and kickoff at 10:15.
The five-kilometre single-day fundraiser is in its 19th year and includes 59 walk sites across Canada. The foundation aims to raise more than $3 million.
For more information, call 604-220-9865 or visit www.gutsywalk.ca