When a Nurse Asked, 'So Which One Are You, Crohn's or Colitis?'


So the nurse asked, “Which one are you, Crohn’s or colitis?” and without hesitation, I answered “Crohn’s”; I always answered “Crohn’s.”  

Though I thought her inquiry could have been worded differently, it didn’t bother me much. I knew she needed to get my vitals done quickly so she could keep the assembly line of patients moving. The clinic was always swamped.

Then one visit, this polite interchange with the nurse prompted a revelation. I came to realize that for the past 10 years, I had been using Crohn’s disease as a way to identify myself; I had lost Kelly and became Crohn’s, and I was crushed.

How odd is that — to become a disease? Without realizing it, I had slowly let Crohn’s disease consume me; the doctor visits, tests and treatments took over my life. Crohn’s had become my badge of honor, my cross to bear, my membership card to the Suffering Club. I studied Crohn’s, learned everything I could in an effort to control it when in reality it was controlling me. I hated Crohn’s, everything about it. It was hard for me to grasp that I had become something I hated. While that was a scary thought, the next thought was scarier: if I let go of Crohn’s as my identity, then who was I? I cried.

By now it should be pretty clear that I had given this quarterly exchange much more power than it probably deserved. Looking back, I am thankful it happened as it prompted me to examine how I was living my life and stop being a victim. It prompted me to reflect on choices I had made and realize I have the power to react differently. I was ready to get Kelly back.

Three months passed and I found myself back in the clinic, ready for my dance with the nurse, but this time I had new moves.  As she directed me to step on the scale, she asked her famous question, “Which one are you, Crohn’s or colitis?” and this time I replied with conviction, “I am Kelly.”

This obviously caught her off guard, as her response was “huh?” to which I exclaimed again, “I am Kelly; I live with Crohn’s.”

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