Emma's story

In her own words, Emma shares her experience of Crohn's disease. Emma, 28, a news reporter from London in the UK, was given a gloomy prognosis when she was first diagnosed at 14, but she says it hasn't been that bad after all and she is now living a full life.

I remember a great deal of pessimism when I was first diagnosed - one doctor told me I would suffer stomach pains constantly for the rest of my life! It can be awful to be on the receiving end of news like that. And his prognosis hasn't been true. I'm now living a full life. I can eat what I want within reason, I work in a job I love, travel wherever I want and have been in remission for years.

I was ill on and off for about two years before I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's in the final year of my GCSE [exams]. I had always suffered with unexplained stomach pains growing up and I just put it down to having a sensitive tummy. But when I was about 14, I started getting it more regularly and lost a lot of weight. At 15, out of the blue, I got a bout of diarrhoeaWhen bowel evacuation happens more often than usual, or where the faeces are abnormally liquid. that I couldn't seem to shake. Symptoms and signs

A section of my ileumThe last part of the small intestine. was really narrow while another part of my bowel was too wide - a classic sign of Crohn's

At first, doctors assumed it was some kind of bug, but later one of them asked my parents if there was Crohn's disease was in the family. None of us had heard of it.

I stayed in hospital for over a month while they ran a battery of tests to confirm the diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have.. I remember having to drink two litres of a special liquid and then being scanned a few hours later. The fluid had reached my intestines and was highlighted by the scanner, showing up the shape of my bowel and any abnormalities. This was a key test as it revealed that a section of my ileumThe last part of the small intestine. was really narrow while another part of my bowel was too wide - a classic sign of Crohn's. Tests and diagnosis

Every toilet trip felt like my insides were on fire - I started to dread going as it was so painful.

The test results all pointed to Crohn's and I was prescribed a corticosteroid. In just two days I finally had some energy. It was like a miracle. I still had some diarrhoeaWhen bowel evacuation happens more often than usual, or where the faeces are abnormally liquid. but I got my appetite back and started feeling better. I took the steroids for about a year with the idea that I would gradually be weaned off them completely. Yet every time they tried to lower my dose, the symptoms would return. Choosing treatments

My first year at uni was tough and I was pretty ill as my steroid dose was gradually lowered. But it wasn't something I wanted to talk about - I didn't want to be seen as the ‘ill one' again amongst my new uni friends.

Steroids mask your symptoms and boost your energy levels, making them hard to give up. I had withdrawal symptoms and felt incredibly lethargic. By my second year, however, I was off them completely and have been off them ever since.

Now I am on another immunosuppressantA drug that suppresses the immune system, reducing the body’s resistance to infection., which is given through an IV dripA means for the continuous injection into a vein.. I'm given saline solution through the dripA means for the continuous injection into a vein. first, followed by the medication for about an hour, and then another saline dripA means for the continuous injection into a vein. to finish. It's quite time consuming but it's kept me in remission since I started on it.

Keeping mentally positive is extremely important - it isn't all doom and gloom

When I feel ill, I stick to really soft foods like boiled carrots and white rice and steer clear of dairy products which I can find difficult to digest. But right now I'm well and try not to dwell on my Crohn's or get too caught up in the medical side of it. There's little point in getting worked up about the possibility of falling ill again in the future. Living with Crohn's disease.

Keeping mentally positive is extremely important - it isn't all doom and gloom. Look at Steve Redgrave - he has Crohn's and diabetes and has still managed to become an Olympic Gold winning rower!