I was just 21 and half way through my Supply Chain Management apprenticeship in Derby when the irritable bowel disease specialist confirmed I had severe ulcerative colitis in 2019. Ulcerative colitis is a condition which causes inflammation of the colon and the rectum. This leads to bleeding, pain and frequently needing to empty your colon.
Soon after my diagnosis, I was put on a course of steroids, the main effect of these being the embarrassing acne that developed over my face and torso. Understandably, both the colitis and the medication had a great effect on my general confidence and I would easily get very tired.
At this time, I was put on placement in Rolls-Royce turbines in Bristol. Helpfully, I was able to relocate back to Bath where I had moved from and commuted to work by train. If I had breakfast before I left I would need to go to use the toilet as soon as I was on the train that was often packed with others commuting to work. A better approach was to take breakfast with me and not eat until after my team meeting around 9 am. My bag was packed with a change of clothes. Before every meeting I would visit the toilet and it was commonplace for me to want to go again when in the meeting. Concentrating proved difficult for me and my progress suffered.
The steroids did not work and now I am on immunosuppressant drugs which have gradually returned me to 'normal' by June 2020. I was classed as moderately at risk from Covid-19 and told to isolate for 12 weeks from March but these restrictions have eased. This is a condition I will have for life and there will be more flare ups but having endured these last 18 months I think I will be better prepared.
Ulcerative colitis is by its nature a hidden disability. It can be difficult coping with a condition where everything appears 'normal' from the outside however with developments in medication, although not curable, it is much easier to manage and live with.
It is important when dealing with a medical condition, hidden or not, to have a good support network round you. I would like to thank all those who have supported me so far in my apprenticeship over the last three years and am keen for others to better understand these types of conditions.
Read more about our OPEN employee resource group for anyone impacted by a disability.