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Susan Cowan, Crohn's and Colitis Canada

Susan Cowan

CEO, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

Over 270,000 people in Canada live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, chronic forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with no known cure. Managing IBD can be a long struggle, with many people spending years trying to find stability to control their debilitating symptoms through a variety of treatments. Losing stability can mean an IBD flare-up, the onset of crippling symptoms, hospitalization, complications, and more.

New fears, anxieties, and challenges

Because of this delicate balance, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard for people who are immunocompromised. “As Canadians grappled with the impact of the pandemic, those living with chronic diseases like Crohn’s or colitis had escalating fears,” says Susan Cowan, CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. One of the foremost challenges was the lack of COVID-19 information specific to IBD.

“My IBD is exacerbated by stress and so it’s been difficult to manage while the world is under such trying times,” says Chantel Wicks, who lives with Crohn’s disease. She notes that the pandemic has affected many aspects of her life. Sometimes it’s the small, everyday things — like her husband not being able to join her at the infusion clinic for her treatments — that make the biggest impact. “This just adds to the feeling of isolation,” she says.

Powerful support for a community in need

Recognizing the challenges presented by the pandemic for people living with IBD, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada leapt to action. They immediately organized a task force of IBD and infectious diseases experts to prepare guidance for this community and to answer pressing questions. Through regular COVID-19- and IBD-related webinars, programs, emails, and social media updates, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is providing much-needed support to people with IBD who are experiencing increased challenges due to the pandemic.

As Canadians grappled with the impact of the pandemic, those living with chronic diseases like Crohn’s or colitis had escalating fears.

Susan Cowan, CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

“Along with managing anxiety and stress, treatment forms an important element of regulating these diseases,” says Cowan.“Losing either physical or emotional stability can lead to a flare-up of the disease, which can mean debilitating symptoms, hospitalization, complications, and more. Stability for people living with IBD is hard-earned and ensuring management and control of debilitating disease symptoms is paramount.”

Another challenge is the lack of understanding about the severity of these diseases. As an IBD spokesperson and one of the charity’s volunteers, Wicks hopes to educate and inspire others by hosting the Guts and Glory podcast (@GtsNGlry). “Remember that you’re not alone in your struggle,” she says. “Reach out to support groups offered through organizations like Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Even if you’re not comfortable sharing your story, listen to others share theirs.”

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