Cheryl Gagnon was diagnosed with Crohn's/Colitis in her second year of university and she says that she is still learning things about the disease.
She explains, "When I was diagnosed with this 20 years ago, I remember I had no idea and I was shocked. I asked the doctor, 'Am I gonna die from this?" Like I had no idea what this disease was because we don't have a lot of diseases that run in my family. He (the doctor) said no, if we get control of it, we'll be good."
Early in her diagnosis, Gagnon was told that being diligent and getting on the right medication would help her manage painful episodes. She said that every case is very different and in each case, there are certain foods that can set off attacks and even blockages that she described as being terribly painful and in some cases, leading to hospitalization to manage and treat.
"For me, I have to stay away from any nut or seed. Sometimes salad, lettuce can be very painful for me. It can create a blockage, and blockages are horrible!"
She added that for some sufferers, it can be bread, or even fruit and vegetables that trigger their condition, foods that are considered "healthy".
There are differences among Crohn's, Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Disease, and Gagnon explained, "My understanding is that Crohn's in more in the large intestine and colitis is more in the small intestine, and then there is also Irritable Bowel Disease or Syndrome, so IBS or IBD, and that can affect any part of the digestive system."
She participated in the "Gutsy Walk" in Regina this weekend, to spread awareness, raise money for research and treatments and to get the word out by getting people talking about the digestive diseases that she says are more prevalent today than they were 20 years ago.