What My Sisters Mean to Me in My Battle With Crohn's Disease

What it means to have a sister is different for everyone. It could mean someone always stealing your favorite clothes, someone to give you advice or someone you can sing at the top of your lungs with driving in the car. To me, having sisters means two great friends I can count on for anything…and I mean anything.

selfie of three sisters in the car
A selfie of me and my sisters before singing in the car

My sisters, Lauren (19) and Anna (17) are brilliant people in both the intellectual and compassionate sense. When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease almost seven years ago, I tried to hide my pain and suffering from them. I was embarrassed and did not want them to see what I was going through. I even resisted their visits during hospital stays. Being the oldest sister, I felt as if I had to always put on a brave face. Eventually, I learned that letting Lauren and Anna into my life in that way would turn out to be a great reward.

When I started sharing publicly about my Crohn’s disease, I worried my sisters would be uncomfortable with their friends and teachers knowing such intimate details about my illness and how it affects our family. I have said this before, but Crohn’s disease not only impacts the patient, but those around them as well. My sisters have seen me at my worst, in hospital beds not being able to walk, recovering from surgery, sleeping for days at a time. I will forever worry about how my disease affects them and has affected them in the past. But through thick and thin, they have treated me the same, and we have grown closer during my struggle with my disease.

My Crohn’s disease has forced me to mature faster than my peers, and to some extent it has forced my sisters to do the same. I cannot put into words how grateful and proud I am of them for not only sticking up for me and supporting me, but also actively advocating for me and others who struggle with illness.

In my most recent endeavor to raise awareness for Crohn’s disease, I have signed up to run a half-marathon. I am running on behalf of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) to fundraise to find a cure for this terrible disease. Last year at this time, I could not walk because of a severe flare and extraintestinal complications, so being able to do this is a huge feat. Moreover, last year at this time I would not breathe a word about my disease to anyone that did not need to know. I have come so far in accepting my Crohn’s disease, and I owe a lot of that progress to my sisters.

When I told Lauren and Anna about this endeavor, they were so supportive that they offered to help me in my fundraising efforts. As I type this, I get teary-eyed thinking of how much their support in this way means to me. Both of my sisters are spreading the word about my fundraising to their friends and also to organizations and events in which they are involved. Their willingness to fight to find a cure on my behalf leaves me at a loss for words. As I have come to accept my disease over the past several years, they have as well.

Those struggling with an incurable disease know how difficult it can be to let others into your life in such an intimate way so as to understand your daily struggle. There is something so deeply comforting about knowing the ones you love stand behind you through thick and thin, and I encourage anyone who pushes others away from whatever battle they are fighting to push a little less. Both of my sisters bring love, humor and support into my life at times when I need it the most. I am forever thankful to them for being who they are to me.

You can donate to the CCFA on my behalf and support my half-marathon here.

Follow Ashley’s journey: @ashleyesper || AshleyEsper

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