It was not only heartbreaking to my youngest son, who at the age of 17, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but also for my whole family, as well. It was hard to watch me son, a high school student, who was very active in cross-country, stricken with a debilitating disease that would prevent him from competing in meets and events the rest of his high school years.
Another issue that concerned my son was his girlfriend. Would she still want to be his girlfriend knowing he had Crohn’s disease? Would any girl want anything to do with him? These were all real fears for my son and he had every right to have them, as people who are diagnosed with a specific disease are sometimes shunned by society.
When my son was first diagnosed, I tried to find a support group that he could join, with the thought that he might be able to relate to people affected with Crohn’s and to get some much-needed answers. I contacted the hospital where he was receiving treatments, but unfortunately, the only support groups for Crohn’s were for adults. I did take him to one and I think it helped, as he was made aware that he was not alone in the world; there were others like him, even if they were older.
My son kept his girlfriend up-to-date on his condition each time he went to the doctor, received a treatment, or found out any new information. I then contacted the CCFA (Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America) to see if they knew of any young adult support groups, and they informed me of a seminar being held for children near us. Although the seminar was for 16 year olds and younger, they allowed my son to register, after I explained how he needed some support from his peers. He also invited his girlfriend along, which proved to be an excellent decision.
I believe this to be one of the best seminars I have ever attended. There were children there of all ages, from different backgrounds, and there was even a set of twins, one diagnosed with Crohn’s, the other without. The children broke off in groups, attending different presentations, while the parents waited in an auditorium.
Later in the day, when I met up with my son and his girlfriend, they were both somewhat in awe of the information they had learned. It turned out that they were the ones in demand, as the other teenagers had question after question for them about their relationship and how they handled things, like dating. My son told them to be honest, and upfront about their condition. If your relationship becomes serious, keep your partner up-to-date on your treatments and medications with the best doctor, let them know what is going on with you, not just physically, but emotional as well.
Although he never found a support group to join, my son did very well adjusting to this disease, even though about a year after the CCFA seminar, my son’s condition worsened and he had to have a colostomy, which luckily was reversed 13 months later. All through his ordeal, he kept his girlfriend informed of his condition and she was right there by his side through everything, and instead of the relationship ending, it steadily grew through understanding, patience, and love. Today, they are both successful, have been married for five years, and are expecting their first child in September.