Muneeb Akhtar – My Crohn’s Disease Story
After months of suffering, Muneeb was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in October 2016, aged 19 years old. Here, Muneeb talks to us about his Crohn’s journey so far and how he has coped with his condition.
Muneeb, thanks for talking to the Bladder and Bowel Community…
What were the symptoms you had that led to you being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease?
There were many symptoms which led to my Crohn’s Disease. At first it was losing weight over time, this was linked in with pains in my joints. However it wasn’t until the diarrhoea and the blood discharge started that I realised something wasn’t right. The cramps in my stomach also got a lot worse, it was the worst pain I had actually ever felt and soon after fevers and mouth ulcers followed. I knew something had to be done. It was then in October 2016 after a colonoscopy that was condition was revealed to me.
What medications have you had for you Crohn’s Disease?
There were many medications that I had taken and trialled. The thing about Crohn’s is that there are many options but not all of them work and I was someone who had to suffer from that. It just felt like my body didn’t want to react to any type of medicine. I trialled azathioprine, humira/adalimumab, prednisone, anti-diarrhoels. All these were taken alongside calcium, vitamins and iron supplements to ensure my body kept going. It just didn’t work for me.
How does Crohn’s Disease affect your daily life?
I was unable to work, go and see friends or even do day-to-day tasks. Leaving the house became hard, my pain meant I was stuck in bed the majority of the time, I was unable to find the energy or the will to get up. It affected my work commitments as well, I was unable to work to my full potential. I felt like I was letting everyone down. My eating was affected a lot, many things which I enjoyed I had to be stop just before my surgery, I was pretty much unable to eat anything at all, anything I ate resulted in cramps and diarrhoea. As much as I tried to be strong, I was just bought back down.
How does being a young person with a chronic illness affect you?
Being a young person it meant I struggled a lot due to my Crohn’s. I was unable to go out or meet friends. I could see a lot of my friends on social media having fun and I felt left out. My issue was that after having a few accidents due to the urge of needing the toilet, anytime I did leave the house my only worry would be where the nearest toilet would be. I became anxious, I was missing out on a lot and that really affected my life. I wanted to be a young, adventurous soul but my body was not allowing me to.
You had surgery at the end of last year to help improve your symptoms. What was the surgery you had and how has it improved your life?
I am now 21 and since my colostomy my symptoms are no longer here. My stoma has been nothing but a blessing. I am once again a free man, able to go out and enjoy my life. The surgery has bought back my quality of life. The need or urgency to go to the toilet is no longer here, my pains no longer exist but most importantly I feel proud, my self esteem is back and I feel really positive.
How have you managed to stay positive through your illness?
One thing that really kept me going is the support I was receiving from my IBD nurses. The whole team was there for me and arranged appointments/scans for me whenever I needed them. I truly believe that without their support and their will of going the extra mile for their patients I would have struggled a lot more.
Did you receive support from your family and friends?
Another positive in my life was my mum, a woman who put aside her worries and stress to push me to get better. My mum’s support means a lot to me. My friends also helped me to see my true potential and made me fight to become stronger.
What do you have planned for the future?
I plan to carry on raising awareness and helping those suffering from this illness.