One woman's account of living with ulcerative colitis

Laurie shares the inspiring story of how she persevered as a working mother and patient living with ulcerative colitis.

December 20, 2023     

Imagine only being able to have small sips of chicken soup for several months—while struggling with diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. 

Laurie didn’t have to imagine it. It was her life. 

“I had to have access to a toilet at all times,” she said. “But when I noticed blood in my stool, it prompted me to go to a doctor. That really scared me. I knew something was very different, and it felt very wrong.”

Laurie didn’t know it at the time, but she was showing signs of ulcerative colitis (UC). 

A difficult road to diagnosis

As president and chief executive officer of a nonprofit organization dedicated to childhood literacy, Laurie is a natural problem solver who is comfortable adjusting to change. But one day in particular made her realize that she wasn’t going to be able to solve this problem on her own. 

“My husband was out of town, and my son needed to go to the doctor,” she recalled. “I was too sick to take him to the doctor, and I was very depressed. I was feeling isolated, hopeless and a lot like a failure. I  couldn’t get out of bed, and I couldn’t be a mom; I’m the mother of 2 boys and being a mother is what I’m most proud of, and what I most enjoy in my life.”

Unfortunately for Laurie, seeing a doctor didn’t immediately solve the problem. She was told her symptoms were caused by stress, and her UC went undiagnosed for three years. Eventually, her undiagnosed disease began to cause serious concern.   “I was down to under a hundred pounds, which was scary for me. I felt like I was dying. I felt like my body was out of control.”

Finally, Laurie was seen by a gastroenterologist who gave her a different  diagnosis—a doctor she credits with changing  her life. “He was the first one to tell me that it was an autoimmune disease, the first to tell me I shouldn't just wait until it flares up. He said I should try to manage it, so I don't go through such difficult times.”

Finding a way forward, holding onto hope

Today, she’s looking toward her future as she focuses on hope. 

“I do believe in hope,” she said. “My hope was challenged a little bit when I started on this journey. I wasn't feeling very well. And I wasn't sure exactly what the journey  would be—but I did always try to maintain hope that I would find a way.” 

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Part of her hope is inspired by the research scientists are doing to help advance our understanding of UC, and their efforts to create new, transformative solutions.

“Being able to be a part of my family, to do well at work, and to be out in the world with friends and family would really be the happiest ending possible,” Laurie said.

Learn more about ulcerative colitis here

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