Diagnosis and treatments: life with Crohn's disease at 18 years old

Published Jan 3, 2020 • By Louise Bollecker

Laura, 18 years old, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in April 2018. Here she recounts her feelings about her diagnosis and the treatments she takes in her fight to live a normal life. Patient testimonial.

Diagnosis and treatments: life with Crohn's disease at 18 years old

Hello and thank you for agreeing to speak with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Laura, I'm 18, I live in northern France and I just graduated. And I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in April 2018.

What were the initial symptoms that told you that something was wrong?

Before I got diagnosed, I had stomach aches all the time, sometimes so bad that it made me cry. I had watery stool, nausea and I was extremely tired. At first, I went to see my GP who has been seeing me since I was a little girl, then my father took me to see a gastroenterologist. Before she diagnosed me with Crohn's disease, the doctor thought it might have been something "simpler" like the stomach flu or appendicitis. Finally, I took loads of tests like a colonoscopy, endoscopy, fibroscopy, MR Enterography and an ultrasound scan and my gastroenterologist broke the news to me that I had Crohn's disease.

How did you feel when you received the diagnosis?

At first, I was just happy to finally put a name on this pathology that was making my life such a headache, but then I also felt angry and afraid. Even today, Even today, it's hard for me to say that I'm going to have to live with the disease for the rest of my life, but I felt relieved that other members of my family aren't affected and I know I have a good doctor and that the people in my life all support me.

Are you satisfied with the support you've received thus far?

Yes, I've gotten a lot of support from health care professionals following my diagnosis. The only thing is, no one has referred me for psychological support. They talked to me about some aspects of Crohn's, but I'm still discovering more even today.

What do your treatments consist of?

I've been on Imuran for 11 months now and everything is going well for the moment...they haven't discovered any stoma in my digestive tract.

How did your family react?

My family supported me, but I lost contact with a few people who were afraid of the illness, but I don't hold it against them, because they understand it.

How are you now?

Since I began experiencing symptoms, I have to go to the toilet more often, I'm always hungry, I talk about what's going on in my gut with those closest to me… and I sleep a lot! My plans for the next few years still aren't very clear, but I'd love to work with young children as a teacher, and I'd also like to dedicate myself to advancing the cause of people affected with digestive disorders.

Any advice for people newly diagnosed with Crohn's?

If someone thinks they might have Crohn's, I'd tell them to get several tests done to make sure. To those who are newly diagnosed, I'd tell them to talk to the people who closest to them and ask for their support. And not to shut themselves away from everyone, because we're never all alone in this. Join sites like Carenity where you can find lots of people willing to support you and also answer your questions. And especially to take life by the horns, don't stay down even if you're feeling down, have a good cry and get back up, with your head high and dance to Beyoncé!

avatar Louise Bollecker

Author: Louise Bollecker, Community Manager France

Community Manager of Carenity in France, Louise is also editor-in-chief of the Health Magazine to provide articles, videos and testimonials that focus on patients' experiences and making their voices heard. With a... >> Learn more


on 12/7/20

Hello. I became ill at age 18 also.  I had abdominal cramping, diarrhea and nausea.  For the next 5 years I went to doctor after doctor never getting a diagnosis. Being a young girl at the time, The doctors told me I was emotional and therefore I should take Valium and rest more. I became sicker and sicker. This began in 1966. I 1972 I weighed 85 pounds.  One evening after dinner, I became violently ill. I went to the ER only to be told by my doctor that I had the flu. They medicated me and sent me home. By the next day, I could not even crawl to the bathroom. I went back to the ER and was seen by a surgeon. He aspirated my abdominal cavity and pulled out what he told me was pus.  He thought my appendix had burst. I was taken to surgery immediately.  That is when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  I had two more resections after that. The last one in 2003.  I have been on Remicade and have been in remission since.  I am now 73 years of age. Life was a struggle, but I fought every day to keep doing the things I loved.   Today I am healthy, I will not let anyone tell me nothing is wrong or it’s all in my head ever again. I admire your spirit, Laura. 

on 11/15/21

Nothing worse than a teen being diagnosed with a forever disease with no cure or exact reason for it. I know. I was 16 when it hit me and 17 when finally properly diagnosed.

I went on a summer trip with friends, upstate NY at 16, in 1975. We camped, hiked and spend 5 days in the mountains of Blue Moose. I came home and had the flu, we thought. It never left. By October, same year, I had numerous diagnoses. I was down to 70 lbs, couldn't keep anything down or in and finally my uncle called his friend at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC.

I was admitted and given a 50/50 chance at survival. The pain was unbearable, so I was on morphine and testing done. It was Crohns, in my ileum. Immediately, a Dr from Germany told me we must operate. I told them NO. I chose to try a treatment plan. 3 months later I was much better, heavier and went home. Life would never be the same. My whole year of being 17 was missed, spending it suffering at home, bedridden, so sick I couldn't walk. My friends slowly forgot me, but a few were loyal and came by to help me laugh again. I was tutored at home for my junior yr of HS. I learned determination, faith, knowing my own body and listening to it. I also decided I wanted to be a psychologist.

The following year I met and married a funny odd young man and had my 1st child. A miracle as the previous year I was given my last rites. I was on my own soon after, as my husband was very ill mentally and we separated.

MANY yeARs went by. I had more children, more education and became a nurse at 22. Psychiatric was my fit. I had much pain, hospital stays and heartache, but I survived with no operations, resections, or being held back for long. I'm writing about my journey from a fun summer vacation to near death to a creative life and 5 children. I still have pain and many medications have been tried but I'm at an advanced stage now, my entire small intestines involved. This year is 47 years of battling Crohns. 17 was too young to begin this path but we don't have choices in many things, I chose to survive. All Crohns patients are Warriors, so remember that always. 

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