Featured Gut - December 2008
Ashley Senuita, London Chapter
My name is Ashley Senuita. I have three beautiful children and I am currently on maternity leave from work. I am 23 years old and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 18 years old. Having Crohn’s disease has not been the most difficult challenge in my life, but it has made every other challenge that I face much more difficult.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was attending the University of Western Ontario and had planned a trip to Montreal with three of my girlfriends during the Christmas break. I did go on the trip, however the month leading up to our departure date was horrible. All I can remember was how much pain I was in and how tired I was all the time. One morning when I woke up, I thought I had a bad stomach ache, later in the day I was certain my appendix had exploded - neither was true. I spent the next week in and out of the hospital undergoing tests that left me both frightened and humiliated. The last test I had (the infamous colonoscopy) confirmed the Doctor’s suspicions and I awoke from my anaesthetic daze to discover that I had Crohn’s disease.
I started out on steroids and they seemed to do the trick, but this medicine came with terrible side effects. I started to gain weight, I became distant and melancholy but it was better than the alternative; constant pain. I went on with my life and finished my first year of university. I had an uneventful summer and started school again in September—it did not go well. I had to temporarily end my university career and focus on getting better. I knew that flare-ups were often brought on by stress and I needed to do my best to avoid difficult situations.
When I felt strong enough I attended private college so I could get a degree under my belt in the quickest way possible. At college I met my husband, Dave. Dave had a beautiful little girl, who I instantly fell in love with. I moved in with David’s family while we both finished school and could save up to buy a house. It was at this time that I had the worst flare up of my life so far. I became so ill that the steroids had no effect on me, nor did my monthly injections. It was time to try something more drastic. After I had lost 50 pounds and could not even fathom putting food into my body, I went on Remicade. It took 4 infusions over a period of 2 months to get my health to improve. The high cost of Remicade was an issue though and as a result I moved back in with my family so they could take care of me.
Soon after, I moved into a new place with David and his daughter. I started to get better and when I had been off all of my medication for 6 months, I became pregnant with my first baby and our second child. Pregnancy was wonderful to me. I did not have a single flare up. After my son was born, I had a few bad days but nothing compared to what I had been through before. Eighteen months later, I became pregnant again and it was the same bliss.
I volunteer with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada’s London Chapter and I encourage my daughter to do the same. She is only six but she really enjoys coming to meetings and helping anyway that she can. I recently co-chaired an amazing event called “Guts on Ice” that raised $11,000, and I was the Honorary Chair for the 2008 London Heel ‘n’ Wheel a-thon. I spend my time with my children, my friends, my family, renovating my house, and volunteering with the CCFC.
I know that I am very lucky—I have not yet had any surgeries and I have been flare-up free for two and a half years. But I do know that it can strike at any time and that is why I work so hard to raise money to find a cure. I encourage everyone to read as many stories about Inflammatory Bowel Disease as they can so they know that it can be dealt with. It sucks, it hurts, and it is embarrassing but if you have it, it is a part of who you are. We need to embrace it and channel our energy into conquering it.