Living with a chronic illness is something many of us are unfamiliar with. We tend to take our health for granted until we get diagnosed with something that can cause life-threatening complications. Crohn’s disease is one such example. Today we talk to Tiffany Thomas about what it’s like, living with Crohn’s disease.
We met Tiffany on an online blogging platform where she opened up about her life and living with a chronic illness.
Daisy Buzz, asked Tiffany a few questions about her journey with Crohn’s disease, how it affects her family life and how it has shaped her to become the strong person she is today.
Daisy Buzz: First of all, tell us a little more about yourself. Who is Tiffany and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Tiffany, and I run the blog Saving Talents. I’m married with 3 kids, currently ages 7, 4, and 2 months. I got my degree in math education and taught for several years before staying home when my husband (Phillip) and I started having children. I’m about to start my third year homeschooling the kids.
I also have severe Crohn’s disease, which plays a big part in my life – I spend a lot of time in the hospital. My family and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We live in Houston, Texas in the USA.
You have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when you were 24 years old. Can you tell us more about this disease and how it gets diagnosed and treated?
I’m coming up on my 10 year anniversary of being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It definitely was a mourning process of sorts – accepting that I would never be able to get back to my old self ever again, even in remission.
Crohn’s is an auto-immune disorder, similar to lupus or arthritis. However, Crohn’s is the immune system attacking your digestive tract.
A heart transplant patient is at risk of his immune system attacking the donor heart; with an autoimmune disorder, your body thinks that its natural tissue is foreign and begins to attack it. Basically, my immune system is trying to kick my intestines, stomach, etc. out of my body because it has gotten confused and thinks it doesn’t belong.
I was pretty much perfectly healthy until about 10 years ago, when all of a sudden I became very ill my first week of teaching (just a few months after graduating college). This meant I was diagnosed very quickly; many people have just mild forms of the disease and can go undiagnosed (or mistakenly diagnosed with something else) for years.
The only way to diagnose Crohn’s is with a colonoscopy and biopsies. Once diagnosed, the best way to treat it is with medications called biologics that repress the immune system to keep it from fighting itself. I get my biologic (Remicade) in a 2 hours infusion every 6 weeks.
How has living with Crohn’s disease impacted your life and the lives of those who surround you?
When we were first married, my husband was finishing his last year of undergrad full-time while also working full-time. I was hospitalized 13 times in those first 9 months – Crohn’s flares, abscesses, fistula, pancreatitis, recurring c. diff. – and it was difficult.
Then after our first child was born (only two months after his first job out of school), I was hospitalized 10 times from when she was 3-8 months old – influenza, Crohn’s flares, abscesses, bacterial sepsis, then fungal sepsis, pancreatitis, and recurring c. diff.
Honestly, I feel like my husband has had it so much worse than I have – it’s easier to be sick than to take on the burdens when your partner is sick. However, he has been a rock and literally has never complained or been resentful once, for which I am eternally grateful.
What are the biggest things that you have had to overcome and how has this made you a stronger person?
I think the biggest thing to overcome with this isn’t the toll it takes on me, but the toll it takes on my family.
It breaks my heart when I’m away from them. When my kids are crying at night for mom, or when my husband is burning the candle at both ends taking care of the kids, working, and taking care of me.
But my husband and I repeatedly say that if we could start all over again and choose, we’d still choose this. We’re grateful for the opportunities to learn and grow closer to each other and individually. We rely on the scripture 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Your husband plays a critical role in your daily life. Tell us more about your relationship; how you met and the journey ever since.
Phillip and I actually met when he was dating my sister their freshman year of college! Haha, actually, it was very casual and just a couple of dates. I thought he was a jerk, and it wasn’t until we were both assigned as missionaries in Puerto Rico that I finally got over hating him. We dated a few months, then I moved to another state for a job and we separated. A year later we got back together. (That’s the short version, lol).
I think marriage has been easy. At least, it’s easier for me than for Phillip. I spent the first several years of our marriage in and out of the hospital.
Because of all of those hospitalizations and being on my literal deathbed multiple times, Phillip and I have dealt with more than a typical newlywed couple would. As a result, our relationship is more like one of 25 years together than just the 8 we have now! I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually lost our tempers with one another. We’ve definitely learned a lot from having health issues.
You have a blog which you’re really passionate about, called Saving Talents. Tell us a bit more about this blog.
After starting a couponing blog several years ago (which we later sold), Phillip and I realized quickly that saving money is more than just using coupons and making budgets.
It’s an entire lifestyle where you try to be a wise steward of your money. The more we studied the parable of the wise steward (also known as the parable of the talents and is found in Matthew 25:14-30)), the more we wanted to share these everlasting gospel truths and principles with others.
The main focus points of the blog are on frugal living, using money in a away to help us towards salvation, using and developing the attributes and gifts we naturally have so that we do not lose them and gaining and using gifts (physical, mental, and spiritual) to help work out our own salvation and that of others.
What advice can you give other people suffering from a chronic illness, especially with regards to going about their daily lives?
You be you. Try to be the best version of you, but only compare yourself to yourself. Don’t measure your own inadequacies with the strengths of others. Trust that you have something of value to give, no matter what your circumstances are.
Another important thing is to not listen to people telling you to “not let your disease define you.” You SHOULD let it define you! Embrace the challenge and use it to learn and grow and shape you into a better person. My disease has had just as much an impact on who I am as having children has! Allow yourself to mourn the loss of your ideal life, but then move on stronger than ever.
Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Tiffany has been hospitalised over 40 times. Regardless of her difficulties, she lives a full, happy life with her three children and incredible husband who goes above and beyond for her.
You can read more about her journey and lifestyle at SavingTalents.com.
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