Real Voices interview: Brittany Elce
Meet Brittany, a sixth-form student who has Crohn’s disease
What do you do?
I’m doing A levels in English Literature, Health and Social Care, and Travel and Tourism. I also work part-time at McDonald’s.
How were you diagnosed?
When I was 16 I had diarrhoea for a whole year. I kept being told by doctors that it was IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], but one night I had really, really bad pains and my parents took me to A&E. They did a colonoscopy [where a thin camera is used to examine the colon] and diagnosed me with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease affecting the digestive system.
How does it affect your life?
The symptoms that I have include diarrhoea and extreme stomach pains. I struggle to digest certain foods, so I avoid acidic fruit like apples and oranges, as well as onions and spicy food like chillies and curries. I avoid fizzy drinks.
I take tablets every morning and every night. I’m on steroids, which are keeping my inflammation down. I’m also on calcium tablets and folic acid to ensure that I get all the nutrients I need and to make sure that the steroids don’t weaken my bones.
Crohn’s doesn’t massively affect my life now as it’s under control, but it did when I first got it. I will have flare-ups in the future though.
What’s the hardest thing about Crohn’s?
At first, I found it quite hard to tell people about it, but then I figured out that people are really understanding, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I’ve had a lot of trouble recently with all the public toilets being closed. If you have Crohn’s it’s so worrying because you need to know where the nearest toilet is when you go out.
What does the future hold?
I’m supposed to be starting my long-term tablets soon, which I’ll be on for the rest of my life. The doctors spoke about surgery but it’s not an option they’re looking at right now – if the inflammation stays down then it should be OK.
Why is it important to talk about Crohn’s?
I found out about Crohn’s and Colitis UK on Facebook, and have joined a lot of Crohn’s support groups there. It’s good to talk to other people with Crohn’s, and it’s helpful to hear about different diets and the side-effects of different tablets.
I think that everybody should be aware of Crohn’s. I had diarrhoea for a whole year and because I waited so long to go to the doctor it got a lot worse. If somebody knows about Crohn’s, then they can go to the doctor’s and check out any symptoms they’re worried about.