Faye Eisan is no stranger to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Diagnosed at age 24, Eisan has encountered many twists and turns in her treatment journey, which now spans over three decades.
When Eisan was first told she had IBD, it was tough for her to imagine how the diagnosis would impact her life, as is true for many of the estimated 270,000 Canadians who live with the condition.* The term “inflammatory bowel disease” encompasses a number of disorders that can cause inflammation and ulcers in the intestine. The main forms are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. In UC, this inflammation is in the large bowel, whereas Crohn’s disease can strike anywhere along the digestive tract.
In 1988, Eisan began her IBD journey. During this time, she struggled with weight gain, insomnia, and acne. But these weren’t the only health effects Eisan experienced. “When I got married in ’89, I was covered in stretch marks and had even grown facial hair, which I had to get removed before my wedding,” shares Eisan. “I wasn’t at my best.”
Two years into her marriage, Eisan became pregnant. In the early 90s, an ulcerative colitis relapse during pregnancy was much riskier than today. Not wanting to take any chances, she took some time off work to focus on her and the baby’s health. “I did everything I could to stay healthy during the pregnancy,” Eisan recalls. “Thankfully, it paid off.”
After several years of adjusting to motherhood, Eisan found herself in the hospital emergency room. Upon examination, doctors concluded she had Crohn’s disease, not ulcerative colitis, as was previously diagnosed. Eisan went on to have two bowel surgeries and try a whole host of medications that did not significantly improve her condition.
Normally very sociable, Eisan didn’t feel up to going out much during IBD flare-ups. “The first thing my husband and I would do when we arrived at an event was look for the bathrooms,” says Eisan. It was time for another approach. Dr. James Gregor, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at Western University, explains that patients with moderate to severe cases of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may need to explore alternative options: “If a patient’s symptoms don’t improve with the first medication they try, then another treatment option may be needed.”
When Eisan became one of Gregor’s patients in 2009, he discussed a treatment option called a biologic. Biologic drugs come from living organisms, or their cells, and are often made using biotechnology. Despite some initial apprehension, Eisan agreed to try something new.
After doing well for 11 years on that treatment, Eisan noticed her joints were swollen, suggesting it was time to reassess her IBD medication again. “Sometimes it’s necessary to try a different treatment to get a patient back into remission, even after many successful years on a drug,” Gregor explains. He tried Eisan on a similar treatment, which she’s now adjusting to.
“Over the years, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to find medication to help me keep my IBD at bay,” shares Eisan. “If you’re worried about seeking treatment, or trying something different under your doctor’s supervision, give it a try. It might surprise you how many options are out there!”
All treatments come with an array of potential risks and benefits, the effects of which can vary depending on the individual. If you are living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, talk to your doctor about treatment options that might be right for you. A great resource is Crohn’s & Colitis Canada, which offers an array of educational resources for people with IBD. You can also visit crohnsquiz.ca and colitisquiz.ca for support in talking to your doctor about IBD treatment options that could be right for your lifestyle and treatment journey as it progresses.
*According to the most recent (2018) statistical report from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
Disclaimer: This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division on behalf of a research-based pharmaceutical company.