Crohn’s Disease: A Young Woman’s Journey


Photo by Kasey Jo Reed

Life is full of challenges. Look at the road ahead and realize that there is also beauty in every direction.

Adrianna Westbrook, a junior at North Forsyth High School, charms every individual with her loving spirit, devoted nature, and fierce determination. With passion in her every fiber, Westbrook is full of energy and enthusiasm when it comes to life’s daily adventures. Because of her positive attitude, it’s often easy to forget Westbrook has Crohn’s Disease.
Crohn’s is one of two diseases under Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), one is ulcerative colitis and the other is Crohn’s Disease (“What is Crohn’s? Your Body and Crohn’s Disease”). “I wasn’t born with Crohn’s Disease,” Westbrook told me. “I was diagnosed with it when I was 12 years old.” Typically Crohn’s Disease is “diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 30” ( “Facts on Crohn’s Disease.”), but a person can be diagnosed at any age. Crohn’s Disease was a drastic change in Westbrook’s pre-teen life. “I had to take on a stricter diet and begin taking medication every day,” Westbrook said. It took Westbrook an immense amount of responsibility and maturity to adapt to her new lifestyle because Crohn’s Disease is a chronic condition, which means you have it for life (“What is Crohn’s? Your Body and Crohn’s Disease”).
There are more than 8,000 new cases every year and that number is constantly increasing in young people (“Useful Statistics about Bowel Disease.”). The causes are generally a factor of heredity, environment, and the immune system. Research shows that 20% of people diagnosed with the disease have a blood relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease (“Facts on Crohn’s Disease”); the real cause of Crohn’s Disease is undetermined. The main theory is that the body’s immune system reacts to good bacteria and food as it would to a foreign body and tries to fight it off (“Facts on Crohn’s Disease”). “The biggest challenge I have faced is pain. Pain often inhibits me from enjoying life, and it has prevented me from staying out for long periods of time, spending the night at other’s houses, or eating good foods. I’ve even had to go through chemotherapy,” Westbrook explained. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the most common symptoms of Crohn’s (“Facts on Crohn’s Disease”), and Crohn’s can affect any area in the GI Tract if not all of it. Crohn’s is most often found in a section of the small intestine called the ileum (“What is Crohn’s? Your Body and Crohn’s Disease”). “My symptoms often make me less active and I miss school. Missing school causes me to get behind, which stresses me out and doesn’t allow me time to do other activities,” Westbrook said.
“I recently had my colon removed: a process that required three surgeries,” Westbrook followed, “but I made that choice to make my life better. Of course the transition to another new lifestyle will be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it.” About 80% of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery to relieve symptoms, repair damage to the digestive system, and treat complications (“Useful Statistics about Bowel Disease”). However, Westbrook never lets Crohn’s disease get the best of her and she works hard to raise awareness. She participated in IBD (Inflammatory Bowl Disease) on the hill, where she talked to senators about improving medical research studies. Westbrook also has a team known as “Young, Wild, and Rectumless,” which participates in the walk for awareness and supports others in her Crohn’s Disease support groups by informing them of the disease and giving them her understanding. Westbrook told me, “I think people often treat me differently because they don’t understand Crohn’s. I usually try to handle it with humor, but I also use facts and describe the hardships. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to give speeches at golf to tell my story.”
Westbrook has been strong in the face of every challenge Crohn’s disease has brought to her, and has transformed it into a learning experience. “I see Crohn’s disease as a blessing in disguise, because I’ve been presented with so many opportunities that I would have never had without Crohn’s.” Crohn’s disease has given Adrianna Westbrook confidence, a greater appreciation for other things in her life, and has given her the ability to be a role model for others who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. She hopes that a cure for Crohn’s disease will one day be found.

Works Cited:

“Facts on Crohn’s Disease.” JustCrohn’s. E-HealthcareSolutions, 2006. Web. 02 May 2014.
“What is Crohn’s? Your Body and Crohn’s Disease.” Crohn’s and Me. UCB, Inc.,2014. Web. 02 May 2014.
“Useful Statistics about Bowel Disease.” StMarksFoundation. St Marks Foundation, 07 January 2014. Web. 02 May 2014.