Campaigns and awareness Case studies Tanya: living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Tanya Fattal has suffered with bowel disease since she was 12 and was often told that her problems were ‘all in her head’ "I have suffered with bowel disease since I was about 12 following glandular fever. "Initially, the bouts of unglamorous symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and frequent trips to the toilet only bothered me every now and then. I put it down to food intolerances, stress and anything else I could think of, until my symptoms became so severe that it took control of my daily life and finally went to see a doctor. After being dismissed on multiple occasions, being told that it was all in my head or that I was anorexic as I was quite underweight, I decided it was time to do some DIY and sort myself out. "I tried countless ‘free-from’ diets and home remedies, and whilst a few things did seem to help, it was only a matter of time before hospital admissions and procedures became the norm. "At 19 I was at my worst and was in hospital for three months, unable to eat, barely able to walk, crippled in pain and connected to various tubes. "I am glad to say that those days are over (almost!). After years of being diagnosed and treated for a functional gut disorder, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. "My daily cocktail of pills, supplements, regular intravenous infusions and my diet help me to manage my condition. "Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an invisible illness which makes it difficult for people around you to understand. "How do you explain feeling ok one day, and being able to go to work or to class, and then be absent or unable to do anything the next day? How do you excuse yourself to go to the toilet, which during flare-ups can easily be more than 20 times a day? "Let’s face it, these aren't the type of conversations you want to be having with your colleagues or classmates. "At times like this, masking the other symptoms such as the pain and the exhaustion become a little bit more of a challenge, although years of pain do make you a master at hiding it. When I think about it, I wear a mask most days. "Probably because it actually helps me get through what should be simple tasks, and at this point, my condition is old news and I don't want to be that constant moaner, or to let it get in the way of too much. "However, I have realised that generally being open about my condition (yes, lots of toilet jokes) with family and friends, actually makes things a whole lot easier for everyone. "Despite the baggage that comes with all chronic illnesses, I have learnt so much and seem to appreciate the little things much more. I have recently qualified as a Nutritional Therapist and I hope to use my experiences to help others. Tanya is a great advocate for bowel disease awareness Earlier this year I chose to support the ‘I’ve Got Guts’ campaign because its aim is to put a stop to the ‘poo taboo’. We all have guts, so why are we so embarrassed to discuss what happens behind closed doors? "There are more than 300,000 reported cases of IBD in the UK, and the NHS says that 1 in 5 people suffer from IBS at some stage in their lives, which can also be debilitating. "Unfortunately bowel cancer is the UK's 2nd highest cancer killer - maybe this wouldn't be the case if people were more open about bowel symptoms? "Bowel cancer also happens to be fully curable if caught early. Talking to your doctor (who has seen it all before) could lead to early diagnosis which could save your life, or that of a loved one. By removing the stigma and embarrassment which come with bowel disease, we hope to encourage individuals who suffer in silence to get checked. "Professor Qasim Aziz who has helped me get to where I am today, is heavily involved in conducting studies for Bowel & Cancer Research. This unique charity funds extensive research into IBD, IBS, rare gut disorders and bowel cancer. I want to support him and his team to make research happen, so that cures for these debilitating conditions can be found - I am confident that with the support and funds, they will get there!