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To My 'Frenemy' IBD, 18 Months Into Our Journey Together

Dear IBD,

It’s been 18 months, frenemy, and look at us now. Seriously – take a look – we’re a few pounds curvier than when you first came to visit and a few pounds thinner than when prednisone came between us. I’d say we’re looking pretty good.

But our relationship is much more than surface-deep, isn’t it? We have that love-hate thing where you brainwash my immune system into attacking itself and I enlist the help of immunosuppressants to get my immune system to calm down. You keep trying to inflame my intestine and ulcerate my colon – and medication keeps saving the day. Oh, IBD, how I love to hate you.

You tried my faith. It was bad enough you grabbed hold of my intestines, but to try to seep into my soul? That’s low, even for you. I couldn’t help but be angry at God, to wonder “why me,” to ask the question that everyone who’s suffered a tragedy has asked: Why do bad things happen to good people? But I know now God has a purpose for me with you, IBD.  It’s not the life I would have initially chosen, but it’s the life I was given and I’m going to *live*.

Which is why I consider you my frenemy. Enemies? For sure. I always have to keep an ear out for whispers behind my back like it’s middle school. But you’ve given me opportunities to shine in ways I never knew I could. You’ve encouraged me to swallow my pride, to mature, to be brave, to be honest and to be a princess. Yes, you were a big catalyst for my return to pageants, and it’s my attitude towards you that wins the judges over. I should thank you, but I still resent you, so I’ll pass.

You made my mom cry. That’s not cool.

You tried to take my eyes – not literally, no, but you warped my perception of my physical appearance. You gave me stretch marks. You gave me rapid weight loss and rapid weight gain. You gave me more pronounced sideburns (OK, technically the weight gain and sideburns were prednisone, but that never would have happened if not for you). But you know what? You gave me the chance to learn that it is better to be healthy than it is to be skinny, and for that I am grateful.

You’ve given me the opportunity to see where my true friendships are. You’ve given me the chance to inspire, to inform and to humor. You’ve given me the chance to meet influential women, to join the IBD community and meet fellow warriors, to befriend doctors. You’ve given me a direction to go for my master’s capstone project.

Yes, you – you tried to take my mind, but I wouldn’t let you. You made school difficult with frequency, the need for a medical single and yes, even an accident. But I finished – I finished summa cum laude, and you could do nothing about it. And now, I’m getting my master’s – who’s powerless now, IBD? It’s not me. A lot has happened in our 18 months together. I’ve turned 21. I’ve turned 22. I’ve won Miss Camden County. I’ve competed for Miss New Jersey. I’ve raised over $4,000 in 18 months for a Foundation I knew virtually nothing about before you bathed into my bowels and tried to dictate my life. I’ve begun an internship at Johnson & Johnson, helping the people who make an immunosuppressant medication to fight you.

Eighteen months. Tears and fears now have given way to cheers because you are a resume builder, not a prison.

So go ahead, tell me I’m less of a woman because I have bathroom issues.

Tell me I’m “too fat” or “too skinny.”

Tell me I can’t predict a future with you so I should spend every waking moment in fear of my next flare.

Tell me how bad needles are.

Tell me all you want, but I. Won’t. Listen.

IBD, I will never be free of you, but I will forever choose to be free in spite of you.

Love, Sophia

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