“A better, more empathetic person” – Elena’s story

My Crohn’s disease journey began back when I was just about to start year seven, marking the start of an uphill battle living with my invisible disease.

I often think back to my first years of schooling and reflect on just how difficult it was to accept this massive change that had occurred. From being a seemingly healthy 11-year-old to then going through a massive flare and seeing the ins and outs of the Monash hospital emergency room. The fight continued when I began to lose my hair and was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata at the age of 13. This proved to be an immense challenge, as what once was an invisible disease that I could hide from the world became visible, and I was forced to be more open about my struggles with my health.

Going from small headbands to full head coverings, toppers, and wigs, I had amazing support from friends and family, which helped to guide me through this experience and build my confidence. When I turned 15, my Crohn’s had progressed far enough that I required surgical intervention (a right hemicolectomy). I will forever be so grateful for my amazing surgeon, who listened to my concerns and promised me I would be back to my school production rehearsals a few weeks after the operation. The determination to get back to my holiday rehearsals for Chicago the Musical encouraged me through my recovery process. Though the surgery and rehabilitation were extremely difficult physically and mentally, it made the performance even more special and sentimental.

Today, I am currently in remission – with a full head of hair. I’ve just finished year 12 and only recently started University at Latrobe. Even during the most difficult procedures, medication trials, and despite enduring disappointments, I can still happily say that I was able to find peace in the small moments and experienced some of the best years of my life.

I wouldn’t change anything about my story, no matter how hard it might have been, as I believe it’s shaped me to become a better and more empathetic person. I’m so proud of my scars (I also think they look really cool which is a plus) and will take any opportunity to advocate and spread awareness for Crohn’s disease and Colitis in the hopes that other people can relate to my story, and know that they are not alone. I hope to empower people of all ages that it will get better. Hopefully, I can be a physical representation of that 🙂

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