IT was an illness she hid from all but her closest family and friends for years – but just weeks after telling her story online, an Ardboe woman has been inundated with messages of support.
Caoímhe Scullion (24) was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was just 11, resulting in severe stomach cramps and having to use the toilet urgently and frequently.
Too embarrassed to reveal the true nature of her condition, she used to pretend to classmates that she had a vomiting problem.
However, after a particularly hard time last year, she is now on new medication and doing well, despite also having developed arthritis and dactylitis (swelling of the fingers and toes).
And the experience has prompted her to set up her own website and blog, LightsCameraColitis, which should be available in the next few weeks.
Her aim is to break the stigma of the chronic illness, raise awareness and help other people who are struggling.
She said, “Last year was very, very tough. The treatment wasn’t agreeing with me and I was exhausted most days and I was also having pains from arthritis, although I didn’t know that’s what it was then.”
Despite her health challenges, Caoímhe is a champion Irish dancer, has a first class honours degree in Textile Art, Design and Fashion and works for Dungannon firm Tyrone Fabrication as a marketing officer, which she loves.
“I just wanted to show people that with the right mindset you can achieve anything, even with a chronic illness,” she said.
With this in mind she uploaded a video on Instagram talking about her experience of the condition, and within two weeks had over 6,000 views.
“I have had loads of support, and messages from other people with colitis and Crohn’s,” she said.
“If I can share my experience and help even one person, that would mean the world to me.”
Caoímhe says her family – parents Kevin and Collette, older brother Conor and aunt and cousins – have been a brilliant support to her.
So too has her boyfriend Seán and her employer which, she says, are a “brilliant” company to work for and are very accommodating of her illness.
After years of trying different drugs with limited success, Caoímhe began the new infusion treatment in February and it is administered in hospital every two months.
At the beginning she experienced excruciating muscle pain, but that has now subsided and she is responding well and has a “far better quality of life”.
Ironically, on the very day she began the treatment, she was diagnosed with enteropathic arthritis, which is associated with colitis and Crohn’s disease.
“The infusion has been a lifesaver for me and I hope it continues to work,” she said.
“I did think ‘why me’ when I was told about the arthritis.
“I have been dancing for 20 years now and it’s tough to get that news.
“I was completely heartbroken because dancing is my life. My last competition was in 2018 when I came fourth in my first Senior Ladies Worlds.
“But I try to stay positive and optimistic and I definitely want to complete my dance teaching exams.”
Posted: 6:30 pm July 30, 2020