Hi! My name is Shannen and I’ve know Jack since we were 11 years old. We were born only 4 days apart and became friends in secondary school. We hung out most days after school and enjoyed drinking energy drinks and playing computer games on my TV, which was the size of a postcard.
I remember Jack’s weight became very low in school, but I kind of assumed it was the norm – everyone was ‘thinning out’ a bit, losing their puppy-fat during puberty. I also remember when he told me that he had just had his appendix removed – it was really, really scary to hear.
Since Jack moved to Bournemouth from our home town, we don’t have the chance to talk as much as we used to, being ‘adults’ and stuff. I was really surprised when he told be that he had been diagnosed with Crohn’s, though. Before Jack’s IBD journey, I really didn’t know what Crohns was. I thought it would just be a bit like IBS, where your bowels would cause you a bit of trouble but life would go on. I tried to research it on the internet and there was some medical jargon about the effects it had on the body, but an internet search would never fully inform me of the struggles that a Crohn’s sufferer would go through. It wasn’t just a bit of a ‘bad belly’ – Jack tried to describe some of the pain he was in to me, but I don’t think I’d ever be able to understand the extent of it. Some days, he told me that he couldn’t even get out of bed because of the fatigue on his body and that a colleague thought he must be skiving. I didn’t realise how common this was for people with invisible disabilities such as IBD – people think that because they’re not sick on the outside, they’re not truly sick. Before Jack’s Crohns was more controlled by his infusions, he would get in touch with me when he was bored in hospital and we would try and have a laugh to cheer him but but that was all I could do – that was all any of us could do whilst he was in pain. Sometimes, it seemed that the health professionals didn’t always know what to do, and that must be scary. There’s a whole world of Crohns and IBD that I still don’t understand. One day, I might understand more, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand what life can be like for Jack sometimes. I think that there definitely needs to be more awareness for conditions such as IBD. Coming from a tight-lipped British society, no one wants to talk about conditions that may affect your stomach but if there was a bit of education and understanding, there is so much more we could do to try and make life just a little bit easier for those with Crohns, IBD or other invisible diseases. Jack, your blog is amazing and even though we’ve been close for years, I’m really enjoying getting to know you better and learn things about you that I never knew before! Keep being that IBD warrior, you’ll get through this.