AUSTRALIA has one of the highest rates of Crohn’s disease and colitis affliction in the world.
Collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), more than 75,000 Australians are diagnosed with the chronic condition.
Gut inflammation leads to a range of problems, including pain, bleeding, profound fatigue, bowel obstruction and more, with malnutrition a common complication and many afraid to discuss their condition.
May is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month, and the theme this year is ‘live fearlessly’.
Bedfordale’s Nadine Cripps, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s when she was eight, is determined to not let IBD hold her back.
An apprentice marine fitter, Ms Cripps grew up in a small fishing village in southern Victoria, always around boats and pulling things apart to see how they work.
She took on the world when she worked two ski seasons at a resort in New Zealand, worked in Leeds and Cumbria in the UK, and travelled to Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain and France.
Ms Cripps also went to Canada multiple times during her European adventures, and travelled for nearly two years solo despite her illness, collecting tokens of the world on her fedora.
“I don’t let it stop me, but I do let other people know that it’s there. I push on – I know it’s always going to be there,” Ms Cripps said.
“It gets frustrating going out for meals, but I’ll never let that hold me back. I say ‘I’m not fussy but my body is’.”
Ms Cripps has had Crohn’s for 25 years, and day-to-day life currently means dealing with a great deal of fatigue, along with muscle and joint pain.
“It’s body fatigue and mind fatigue. I work 10-hour days, so I get to 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and I can nearly fall asleep standing up, it hits me like a ton of bricks. It’s different for everyone, for me that’s a big thing,” she said.
“My ligaments and tendons are like steel cable; they’re not supple. I have to lie in bed and stretch for 15 to 20 minutes every day.”
Ms Cripps said she was still discovering the effects of various foods on her body, and has developed a sixth sense for where toilets will be, something particularly anxiety inducing for those with Crohn’s and Colitis.
It is just one of the concerns Crohn’s and Colitis Australia seeks to alleviate for IBD patients, offering a ‘Can’t Wait’ card so they can access toilets outside normal public amenities.
World IBD Day 2017 falls on May 19, with famous landmarks illuminated in purple around the world to raise awareness for these invisible illnesses.
To find out more about IBD, access resources, or donate to research and programs, visit crohnsandcolitis.com.au.