Hey New Yorkers: Take Action to Ensure Restroom Access!

I’ve written before about the Restroom Access Act (Ally’s Law) and how important it is to get it passed in states across the country in order to ensure that patients with inflammatory bowel disease and other illnesses are able to access employee only restrooms in stores when a public one is not available.

Well New York, it’s your turn to act!

Restroomaccess

In 2013, the New York State legislature attempted to pass the Restroom Access Act but it was never brought up for a vote. Earlier this year, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) and Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) introduced the bipartisan Crohn’s and Colitis Fairness Act in the New York State Assembly and Senate. If passed, this bill would amend New York State public health law to provide individuals with “Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or any other medical condition that requires immediate access to a toilet facility” access to employee-only bathrooms when a public one is not available.

Sounds great, right? It would be, but it won’t pass without your help.

On June 17, 2015, the New York State Senate will vote on the Crohn’s & Colitis Fairness Act. In order to gain support and ensure that we get as many votes as possible, we need to join forces with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America to lobby our legislators to support this bill. So if you live anywhere in New York, here’s what you need to do between now and June 17:

  • Identify who your New York State Senator is here (if your Senator is Senator Hannon or bill cosponsor Senator Simcha Felder, email them and thank them for their support!)
  • Either email them, call their office or visit and ask for their support of S4918, the Crohn’s and Colitis Fairness Act
  • Ask your friends and family to do the same
  • Don’t live in New York? You can still help by reaching out to New York State Senate Leadership and urging them to support the bill

Taking action takes less than five minutes. To make it even easier, here are two draft emails that you can use to send to your legislator:

Crohn’s and Colitis Fairness Act Letter

CCFA Template Letter

It’s up to you, New York, to make this bill become a law.

June 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

Living in the in between

For me, the worst part of being the caregiver of someone with a chronic illness and also a patient myself is living in the “in between”- the grey area straddling the line of good and bad, healthy and sick. I am a bit of a control freak (I know, shocking) and get very agitated when I can’t anticipate what’s to come and can’t adequately plan for the future. Ask anyone who knows me- I am the captain of to do lists (and if they aren’t written neatly enough, I’ve been known to rewrite them) and timelines. Professionally, this makes me great at my job because I am always on top of my work and I can multitask incredibly well. But personally, it is a huge source of angst.

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June 9, 2015 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Why I Take Steps

This past Saturday my family and friends proudly walked around Clove Lake Park in Staten Island behind a “MVP Team – Relief for Rosanne” banner. We had just received the Second Place Fundraising Team Award for the third year in a row at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) Take Steps Walk.

2015 Team Relief for Rosanne

 

During our walk on that beautiful day, I couldn’t help but to reflect on far I had come. I didn’t attend my first Take Steps walk. A couple of years after my diagnosis my mom went and walked with a coworker’s team in New Jersey. She reported back to me that it was a wonderful event and that I should attend the following year.

I thanked her and told her I’d consider it, when in actuality attending the following year was the last thing I wanted to do.

I was uncomfortable with my diagnosis. I didn’t tell my classmates what I was going through. Instead of going out with my friends and possibly having an episode or accident, I told them I didn’t feel like going out. Talking about ulcerative colitis, or my symptoms, wasn’t an option.

That was, until I participated in Take Steps New York City in 2010. When I showed up at the South Street Seaport for my first Take Steps walk, I was immediately speechless. I could not believe that there were that many people impacted by Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Everyone was cheerful yet purposeful. I heard children at least a decade younger than I was speaking freely about their conditions and about their battles.

I had a chance to speak to some of the best IBD specialists in the tri-state area in the doctor tent. I heard about the wonderful work the CCFA was doing to fight for restroom access in the mission tent. I laughed out loud for the first time in a long time when I saw children tossing toilet paper into toilet seats. I was touched when my teammates, who knew what I was going through, reached a new level of understanding thanks to the many patient advocates in attendance.

As much as the New York City walk meant to me, when the CCFA Greater New York created the first annual Take Steps Staten Island walk three years ago, Take Steps became even more of a personal mission. Our first walk was a modest one. From the naked eye, I would say we had 75-100 participants and the whole walk didn’t net as much money as some of the teams from the New York City walk. However, I was home. I was walking with my neighbors with an underserved IBD community.

It was amazing to me this year to look out and see all the new faces. While this is depressing to some – to see more people affected by these terrible diseases – I knew they were there all along hanging in the shadows as I once was.

I also hit a personal goal this year: for the first time, I shared information about my disease and the walk with coworkers. Many showed their generosity and donated to my team. However, the most important moment for me was when I began to get emails back:

  • I had no idea you were going through this. Can you take medication?
  • I didn’t know about ulcerative colitis. I looked it up after your email.
  • How did you manage your pregnancy with this disease?

Advocacy. Friendship. Awareness. Information. Finding a cure.

This is what Take Steps means to me. I’m so thankful for the CCFA for Take Steps and for all the terrific work it does.

Team Relief for Rosanne raised $4,400 this year. Read more about the team on the Take Steps website

June 3, 2015 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

Reblog: Crohn’s Kills – Warning This Headline Is Clickbait, but the Message Inside Is Important

Today’s post is a reblog from my friend Jaime’s blog Pretty Rotten Guts. Last week, one of her best friends, who had Crohn’s disease, passed away and this post was written in the days following her passing.

Last week, one of my very best friends, personal cheerleader, over-the-phone nurse, confidant, and late night infomercial watching buddy passed away. Over the past few years, she fought an extremely long battle against her body. She had Crohn’s disease. While many would argue she passed from Crohn’s disease… that isn’t exactly what took her away from us. I’ll explain.

When I was in high school, before my Crohn’s got too out of hand to maintain a regular in-class workload, I was on what was referred to as a nursing track. This freshman course consisted of learning basic nursing concepts, terminology and anatomy. I loved it. And one day we got to study diseases. Our instructor, a longtime nurse and college instructor, explained to us how sometimes it’s not a disease that kills someone but a complication from that disease.

One example she gave was of an AIDS patient who had cancer. How do you determine cause of death? Sometimes it’s as simple as saying cardiac failure. If you need to go into further detail it can be cardiac failure due to end-stage cancer or possibly end-stage AIDS depending on the symptoms leading up to the death. But unless there is an autopsy you go with the general — heart failure.

Many people over the course of this past week have asked the same questions, “How old was she?” and “What did she die from?” and I want to so badly respond the way she would.

It would have gone something like this: “… age? No.” And “… die from? Stubbornness!”

Both responses would have been uttered in a thick Boston accent, quickly followed with a laugh and a coy smile.

As for her COD, well I don’t think many who knew her would disagree with stubbornness as a cause, but in reality she was in heart failure due to a dangerous clot that eventually dislodged. The clots were caused from an infection. This infection had become her arch nemesis next to Crohn’s disease. More than likely her Crohn’s and surgeries caused by the disease led to her declining health, but it was the infection and its clots that were too much for her to overcome this time.

I along with a few friends have been on guard for most of the week anticipating people who really didn’t know our friend to start positing her face amongst purple ribbons and candles, inspirational quotes, or phrases like Crohn’s Warrior, or purple butterflies referencing flying with angels or other butterflies. She hated with a capital H-A-T-E-D that stuff. Thankfully, not too much of that has happened. However, the few who have disrespected our request to remove the purple swag have made it pretty painful to deal with.

Our friend was such a private a person that we didn’t learn of her actual age or birthday *gasp* until we caught it on a picture of a hospital bracelet that she forgot to crop out before sending it to us. She accepted defeat graciously.

I truly do not feel right typing this story out; it doesn’t feel real. Several friends have texted the question “Is this real?” over the past week, and each time I have to respond back to them, “Yes, very”.

I guess I’m writing this for two reasons — partly to diminish the denial that many of us are still feeling; as well as a way to lay the facts out while keeping her dignity intact, because so many people have questions and let their minds wander.

To put it simply we can all agree that the clot caused her death. It wasn’t just Crohn’s disease alone that took her away.

Whenever a young- and vibrant-looking person with a like disease who is somewhat known in an online health community passes it becomes a very sensitive time for all community members. Even those who didn’t personally know the person (who has passed on) take this loss very hard for their own personal reasons. Grief knows no boundaries.

These losses leave everyone (patients, as well as their friends and family members) emotionally raw; vulnerable even. It’s not out of the ordinary for them / their loved ones to wonder “Could it happen to me / them too?”

In short, more than likely it will not happen. Crohn’s isn’t known for taking lives in the same manner many terminal diseases are. Months ago, our friend made a flyby comment that she “could just as easily get hit by a bus instead.” I was neither amused nor comforted. This comment came from someone who had beaten the reaper a few times already. So, I would like to emphasize to those of you out there in our Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Community — regardless of having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — Crohn’s can contribute to someone’s death, but IBD doesn’t have a high mortality rate. It just doesn’t.

So, if you see a post online, or an article floating around that says something like “Crohn’s Kills” or “Crohn’s has taken the life of another warrior..,” go ahead and take what you just saw with a grain of salt and know that there are multiple circumstances involved.

Don’t forget to check out Jaime’s blog here.

May 29, 2015 at 12:30 pm 1 comment

Recap from IBD Social Circle

As I mentioned previously, I recently spent four days in Washington, D.C. as part of the IBD Social Circle, sponsored by Janssen Biotech. The IBD Social Circle is the online movement dedicated to bridging communications gaps and inspiring and educating the IBD community. It was formed a year ago with seven activists and is now comprised of a group of about 20 IBD activists from across the country.

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May 28, 2015 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

Stuck in the Middle with IBD

When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis nearly a decade ago, I was told my case was “mild” and I should go on living my life. I had no idea what I was in for at that point. In fact, I was relieved to find out it was ulcerative colitis (which seems laughable at this point) after being told for more than five years that it was “all in my head” and I just needed to relax. I was told to take Asacol and resume my normal activities.

As it turns out (I’m sure you’ll be shocked by this) I couldn’t resume my normal activities. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) turned my life upside down. A few months prior to my college graduation from St. John’s University, I found myself unable to travel to take my finals and instead of jumping into the work force that I had prepared so hard for, I was just trying to get by.

Determined not to be slowed down by my disease, I applied to graduate school and got into my dream program at New York University. If I couldn’t work, I’d advance my career by getting my master’s degree. It was a great goal, but each day I was getting sicker, and I was deteriorating rapidly. I wasn’t eating, with fears of an accident during classes.

subway

photo credit: Cuddles via photopin (license)

Four weeks into my program at NYU, I was waiting for the subway I noticed I could not turn my neck to check if the train was coming. I thought it was strange and mentioned it to my parents when I got home. A few hours later, when I got into bed, I couldn’t breathe. My family rushed me to the emergency room, where we quickly found out I had developed pneumonia from being so run down due to my flare up.

My return home after a week in the hospital was short lived. After a day or two, I couldn’t walk up the stairs without getting winded. A quick chest x-ray showed pneumonia in both of my lungs, which we later found out was caused by a hospital-acquired staph infection. I was rushed back to the hospital, this time to ICU, and was pumped with the strongest antibiotics available.

If you know anything about IBD, you know that antibiotics and digestive diseases make for a messy combination. In short time, I was diagnosed with C. Diff and I was back to the hospital for a third time. I had to withdraw from my semester at school and it took months to recover. I still have PTSD from this experience.

However, that was my only IBD-related hospital stay in a decade with the disease. I never had to have surgery for my IBD. None of my flare ups required an emergency room visit. That’s not to say I’ve had it easy. For a couple of years, I would flare up every three to four months. I would commute with the worst cramping you could imagine and my fatigue was impossible to overcome. I felt at times like a prisoner in my own home. Inflammation has popped up in my ears and eyes at various points. At the ripe old age of 27, I got shingles on my face.

Right before my wedding in 2011, I seriously considered having my colon removed, but it thankfully never came to that. My doctors found the right combination of Ascaol, Remicade and 6MP to manage my symptoms and I’m living a relatively normal life.

So why do I feel like I’m stuck in the middle? Like many patients, I look to the internet for support and a shoulder to cry on. On the internet I find amazing advocates who are doing so much to spread awareness and fight for patients. There is no price that can be put on the value of what they do. Yet their diseases are often significantly much more progressed than mine. They are in the ER at a blink of an eye. Their chronic pain requires frequent surgeries and hospital stays. Some of the advocates I’ve followed through the years have even died from complications due to IBD.

Every time I go online to vent or complain about my symptoms, I find someone who has symptoms 100x worse than I do. I feel guilty…oh so guilty…for even thinking of complaining. I feel like I should be grateful that my disease hasn’t progressed beyond a certain point, but instead I am depressed that I don’t feel well enough to feel like myself.

I’m here to tell you today that you aren’t alone. Yes, you. You, who is well enough to work but feels exhausted all the time. You, whose IBD is progressed enough to be a pain in the ass (literally) but not enough of a pain to allow you to go on disability. You, who is flaring up and is in the bathroom 15 times a day but is still going to school. You, who is afraid to get in a car for fear of an accident.

You aren’t alone. You’re allowed to be in pain and you’re allowed to be pissed about it. Every day is a struggle for you. You learn to expect the unexpected with IBD. You may not live with a j-pouch or an ostomy, but you’re sick too, and it’s OK to grieve about your disease. CCFA’s “Escape the Stall” campaign wasn’t egregious to you because that’s the life you live every day.

I hope that I could be your voice. Thank you, Rebecca Kaplan, for inviting me to blog about IBD here. I hope that I do this group (that’s stuck in the middle just like me) justice. I invite you to let me know what you think in the comments section below or connect with me on Twitter @RoeMoPR.

May 26, 2015 at 10:30 am 18 comments

Introducing New Caring for Crohn’s & UC Contributor!

Keeping a blog current takes a lot of work and content. As many of you know, I’ve had a lot of trouble writing as often as I should in order to keep the blog up to date. After a lot of thought, I decided that I could use help writing on the blog and interacting with Caring for Crohn’s readers.

So I am incredibly excited to announce that my friend Rosanne will be joining Caring for Crohn’s as a new contributor!

relifeforrosanne

I first met Rosanne in 2013 through the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s Greater New York City Chapter’s Communication’s Committee (man that’s a mouthful). Rosanne was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2006. She is very active in the IBD community, not only on the communications committee with me but also as a volunteer with Staten Island support groups and a Take Steps participant. She is a public relations professional, a Disney enthusiast, and a new mom to an adorable five month old baby boy.

Rosanne will be blogging here about her experience with ulcerative colitis and as a new mom with an inflammatory bowel disease as well as general information about IBD. You can follow her on Twitter at @RoeMoPR.

Please join me in welcoming Rosanne to the Caring for Crohn’s family!

May 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm 1 comment

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