1. Do you have a primary diagnosis, if so, what is it?
A: I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease that affects the large intestine.
2. How long did it take you to get diagnosed?
A: It took a year to diagnose. I was misdiagnosed with IBS and lived with an untreated ulcerative colitis flare up for a whole year. I was only diagnosed and in a way taken seriously when it almost made my bowel perforate.
3. How did you feel when you were first diagnosed? (ex: relieved, upset, numb?) What was the first thing you did?
A: Well I was hospitalized when I found out I had ulcerative colitis, so when I was diagnosed I felt a sense of determination; a determination to get better and get out of hospital; a determination to adjust my lifestyle to keep flare ups at bay. I felt more determined about my career goals, I wasn't going to let my diagnosis get in the way of my dream career as a Police Officer.
4. What advice would you give to someone who is chronically ill but undiagnosed?
A: Persevere! If one doctor gives you a diagnosis that you're not satisfied with, don't give up! Find a new doctor who is willing to listen to your symptoms with an open mind. Even though they are incredible human beings, they're still human and they can still make mistakes. Keep pushing and don't give up!
5. Has your chronic illness changed your perspective, and if so, how?
A: It's made me appreciative of life.
6. What moment are you most proud of in your chronic illness journey thus far?
A: Setting my own Instagram page dedicated to my chronic illness journey. I got to a stage where I thought “F*** it, I want to share my story to help promote awareness”. It’s really cool because I've been in touch with hundreds of people around the world. I've had people contact me for advice; I've had people thank me for sharing my story. If my story can help one person, then I feel like my IG has achieved it's goal.
7. What was your hardest (or lowest) moment, mentally and/or physically, that you’ve been through on your journey
A: When I had surgery to create a temporary ileostomy, keyhole surgery wasn't an option for me as it would have put me at risk. So they had to cut me open. It took me months to recover, and losing my sense of independence during the initial phase of recovery was extremely hard.
8. What or who has helped you the most during the lowest days?
A: My partner, Katy. She is incredible, and I love her to bits.
9. If you had any words of advice for someone struggling with a similar diagnosis, what would they be?
A: Just because you have a chronic illness doesn't mean that your life is over.
10. What would you like the world to know about life as a chronic illness patient?
A: Don't think of us a weak. We are strong. We still manage to smile whilst enduring a world of pain. That's a level of strength that a lot of people won't experience.