Emily Farrell age 22, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis about ten years ago.

“It felt like a long road to finally get my diagnosis. I had never had a great relationship with food and when I noticed a connection between eating and my symptoms, it made that relationship even worse. I remember being in primary school and thinking ‘maybe if I skip breakfast, my stomach won’t hurt’ and so I would do just that. And that turned into skipping my lunches in school. 

I remember telling my mom that I was passing blood when I would use the bathroom. My GP initially prescribed laxatives as he believed I was suffering from constipation. It wasn’t until my mom saw just how much blood I was passing that they realised how bad it was. We went back to the GP and a referral was put through to the gastroenterology unit in CHI Crumlin. When I was seen by the specialist, I was scheduled for an endoscopy and colonoscopy where they diagnosed me with indeterminate colitis. It’s understood now that I have ulcerative colitis.

After being diagnosed, I was found to be anaemic and so I was prescribed iron supplements in addition to an anti-inflammatory drug to treat the condition. When I had my first flare-up, I was admitted into hospital and very narrowly dodged having to get a colostomy bag at 14 years of age. Today I’m on immune-suppressive injections every two weeks that I can take from the comfort of my home.  

I think I’d be a different person if I didn’t have IBD, but I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. I believe I’m more resilient now than I might have been before. I am incredibly proud of myself for having finished college. College life can take a toll on anyone, and trying to manage work, social, health and academic life was a difficult juggle. But I did it! I got through and graduated with second-class honours. Even though I struggled to go to campus, I still managed to get a good grade. Next, I really want to do a course in Irish Sign Language and maybe go into sign language interpretation. 

IBD is a chronic illness, even when I am in remission from the disease itself, I will still have to manage the side-effects of medication, or other illnesses that I may be more susceptible to as a result of treatment. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are days in which I might not be able to do the same things I did yesterday.  

I feel lucky to have a group of people around me that understand this. I’m lucky that they’re willing to listen and learn about the experience of an IBD patient. I think that’s why World IBD Day is so important. When I was diagnosed, neither me nor my parents knew exactly what this condition meant. It’s not just a simple as an upset stomach and we, as a community, have the opportunity to raise awareness.

Emily is one of five daughters, and her entire family has been very supportive throughout her various hurdles with the disease. She enjoys crocheting which she finds really calming. She loves music, reading poetry and finding new coffee spots.