I have always been a massive advocate of body positivity and have preached self love for many years, but when I started to notice Crohn's symptoms, I struggled to follow my own advice. For the first time in my life, when I moved to University and met Tom I actually started to love my body, something I have been working on since I was very young, but Crohn’s completely destroyed that. Both the disease itself and treatment cause weight fluctuation, bloating and often ends in scars, marks and bumps.
Around November 2020 is when my symptoms really began to get bad, I was passing a lot of blood and couldn’t seem to keep any food down, I would either throw it up or it would go straight through me within a matter of minutes. Obviously I wasn’t getting any nutrients from my food whatsoever, so I started to drop in weight. At first it wasn’t worrying me because I was training at Drama School, I presumed it was all the physical activity I was doing and quite frankly I was chuffed. Then it started to drop off me quite fast, so I put that down to stress. In December I stopped eating altogether because it caused so much pain and I couldn’t keep any food inside of me whatsoever, my body would just start convulsing and contracting and would push all food out of me along with a massive load of blood, which was terrifying. In the week leading up to my hospitalisation and when I was in the ward I lost just under 4 stone, and dropped 3 clothes sizes. I was literally wasting away. When I got home my parents pointed out how gaunt I had got, that you could see my cheek bones pushing through, my feet looked boney and my collar bones were stabbing out. To begin with I didn’t really notice it because I was so inflamed that the bloating managed to cover up the weight loss. But once my medication had kicked in when I was at home, I did not recognise myself in the mirror.
For someone who wanted to be skinner their whole childhood, I was not happy with how I looked whatsoever, it was exciting at first to fit into new clothes but that soon wore off when I realised how malnourished I was in order to get to this point. I was so confused at the mind set, I always wanted to look like this, so why was I so unhappy? It made me realize that in order to become a new person with a new body, you must love your old one just how it was. Everyone's bodies are different and that's something to be celebrated. I was never big per say, just had curves but as all young girls sadly do, they see themselves as double the side of what they are. This isn't helped by the fact that I grew before anyone else did as school, so to me, I was fat, which now that I look back, couldn't be more wrong.
This then all changed when my steroid treatment caused me to put a stone back on, bloat and have massive fluid retention in my face. Even though I am still a lot smaller than I was before I started to lose weight, I felt like a whale. My moon face was difficult to look at because I already have a pretty round face thanks to my Chilean genes, so suddenly I felt 10 times more round. The bloating in my stomach would mean that I went from having no stomach whatsoever to looking pregnant within a matter of minutes, it was confusing and aggravating. Even though I wasn't happy with losing 4 stone, putting back on 1 stone because of my steroids upset me massively because it was just so sudden. Now that I am off steroids and on a liquid diet, my weight is beginning to go back to normal and I am starting to feel more like myself again. I am really working on learning to love the body I am in because although it may be struggling, it keeps me alive, and for that I must treat it with respect.
4 months ago when I was in hospital with my first Crohn's flare, my inflammation became so bad in my lower left abdomen, that my skin that protects my colon, where my Crohn's is most severe, stretched and tore and I am now left with a tiger scratch scar, to remind me of my first flare up. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my new scar, it holds a lot of painful memories of when I was very sick but now I’m seeing it as a scar that shows my strength and courage through tough times. Tom has been so amazing in helping me to love my new Crohn’s body and he supports me through all my stages of body acceptance. He named it my lightning bolt scar and now I feel like it's something to show off as opposed to being ashamed of.
Since becoming a Crohn’s warrior I have been left with a lot of scars from procedures, needles and very fast inflammation in sections that tore my skin. I have been labelled by my IBD nurses and doctors as their best worse nightmare for needles because even though I am not squeamish whatsoever and have a very high pain tolerance when it comes to needles, my veins are so shrunken, deep and some are collapsed, that it often takes a solid 8 attempts to get cannulas in me. So my arms are covered in scars from many cannula attempts that have failed. The backs of my hands look like pincushions and my thighs and stomach have been injected with so many steroids, blood clot preventers and immunosuppressants that they look like someone has tried to play dot to dot on me. I often cover my arms when leaving hospitals as I am left with nasty scars and bruises from IV treatments, cannulas and blood infusions.
I used to see all of these scars as things that make me look different and ugly but I am slowly learning to see them as art and battle scars. I'm definitely not there yet and when I look down at the stomach and see my tiger scratch scar it still upsets me. Crohn's has impacted my relationship with my body massively, but I am learning to try and accept it.
I want everyone to know that all bodies are unique and individual and it is okay for them to change!! Love your body, your lumps, bumps, scars, marks!
Luce :) x