My Mission to Share The Truth About IBD – One Mom Speaks Up
Living with inflammatory bowel disease can be isolating. Brooke Abbott opens up about IBD through her blog to empower other moms like her.
What initially led you to start writing your blog, The Crazy Creole Mommy Chronicles?
Brooke Abbott: I actually started blogging before I even had a child to share random thoughts about things that I liked. Then, when I became a mother, I shifted focus and started writing about that experience.
Was IBD something you talked about on your blog in the beginning?
BA: Not at first. I was originally diagnosed in 2008 and after I had my son my disease took a drastic turn. I was working in entertainment and hadn’t told many people about my illness because I wanted to protect my job and I was concerned about the stigma associated with a gastrointestinal disease.
Then in 2012, I had a total colectomy, meaning my entire colon was removed. When I was in the hospital preparing for surgery, my mother suggested that I write a blog post about everything I had gone through and what was next. She told me to be completely honest because there might be someone else out there who was going through the same thing. So I did it. I wrote my story.
“Sharing my story led me to seek out more information. As I learned more about IBD, I felt motivated to get the truth out there. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to this disease.”
What was the reaction after you published your story that first time?
BA: Right away, I received emails from about six people saying they went through the exact same thing and they had similar symptoms. Then those six people turned into 24 people the next week, and it continued. Now thousands of people read my blog each month.
Did opening up about your disease change things for you?
BA: I felt like the biggest weight had been lifted off my shoulders because I had been hiding it for so long. Most of the people in my life found out about my IBD when I published that blog post. It felt like I didn’t have a choice other than to be completely honest, open and truthful about what was happening to me.
Since that first blog post, how did your writing evolve into your role as an advocate today?
BA: Ultimately, sharing my story led me to seek out more information. As I learned more about IBD, I felt motivated to get the truth out there. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to this disease, and in some ways I was living in a cloud of ignorance. I knew that I wasn’t the only person who didn’t really understand the disease even after my diagnosis. It was important for me share with others that we are actually more alike than we are different.
I’ve noticed there are not a lot of resources out there for moms with inflammatory bowel disease. So, I try to consider all the circumstances moms face: pregnancy, infants or older children; working or staying at home; being single or being in a relationship. No matter where they are, I try to connect them with resources that they may need to navigate through motherhood with IBD.
What are some of the ways you stay empowered and take charge of life each day?
BA: I don’t allow my disease to stop me from living my best life. I coach baseball, volunteer at my son’s school, lobby and do legislative advocacy on Capitol Hill and travel. I also carve out time each day to read, meditate and just be there for myself. I have restrictions and sometimes I have to modify my plans, but I never stop living my life.
You’re the mom of an eight-year-old son nicknamed “Hippo.” How do you handle parenting when you’re not feeling well?
BA: I never know when a flare-up will come, so I plan ahead in case I’m on the couch or in bed all day. When my son was younger, I created a special box with items like dry snacks, water bottles, games and activities we can do together without having to move around too much.
I also reach out to my mom, our friends and others to help. Sometimes I use childcare apps to get last-minute babysitters, or I set up carpools so Hippo can get to his practices if I can’t take him.
I think quite often moms feel like if we’re not doing it all, then we’re not doing it right, but that’s not true. It’s important to reach out for help when you need it.
Hippo, what advice would you give to other kids who have parents or siblings with a disease like IBD?
Hippo Abbott: I would tell them to be strong. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make friends with their doctors. Try to understand what your parents or siblings need so you can help them. You might feel angry, sad or confused and those feelings might start to feel normal. You have to have hope that everything will be okay.
Brooke, any last words of advice you’d share with others living with IBD?
BA: The biggest thing I’ve learned is how important it is to be truthful with yourself and the people around you. Know your limitations and what you can do, and be in touch with how you’re feeling. Don’t feel guilty, don’t be afraid to have emotion. It will make things easier in the long run.
To learn more about Brooke’s journey, visit her blog The Crazy Creole Mommy Chronicles.
Disclosure: AbbVie compensated Brooke Abbott for participating in this interview. Information in this post should not be construed to constitute medical advice.
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