Dylan Macdonald is a marketing student and social media entrepreneur. In March, he was approached by the IBD charity Cure Crohn’s & Colitis to join its ranks of volunteers as a digital promoter for the organisation.
In this article Dylan shares his experience of coming into this environment with no prior knowledge of these debilitating conditions, or the work of the charity, which runs entirely on the goodwill of unpaid volunteers…
Slightly overwhelmed – I’d say that was how I felt at first. That, and a huge sense of responsibility. Despite this, I genuinely believed that my input, in some shape or form, could help people. Not the digital presences or agencies that I usually work for, real individuals. I felt as if a real impact could be made with my work.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis before I came on board and, even now, I don’t think I’ll ever know enough. I’ll always be an outsider looking in.
With that said, I do believe my knowledge and understanding has improved significantly in the last few months. This has largely been due to a combination of social interaction with sufferers, research on and offline and my own ongoing role promoting the fight against these horrific illnesses.
Friends, family and colleagues continue to ask me to this day “What is Crohn’s?” and I look back in disbelief at their lack of knowledge, then I remind myself that just a few short months ago I was one of them.
I had no awareness of what this damaging disease was, despite the vast number of people who suffer from it day in and day out.
I realise this may not be the best explanation (or attempt at one more like) but I will try my best. From my early experiences and interactions with many sufferers, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis causes extremely painful and discomforting bowel and stomach issues among others. This can damage individuals in such a way that many are unable to get up in the morning never mind work or enjoy their personal lives.
The sheer scale of what we are fighting is evidence in itself that the volunteers working to raise the profile of this debilitating disease face a very difficult and time consuming task. Of course the struggle is nothing compared to what those who actually suffer from Crohn’s face daily.
One of the most extraordinary, and encouraging, aspects of the fight to cure Crohn’s is the community ethic. We are a group of individuals all fighting together for the same cause; a cure.
The lack of awareness of Crohn’s simply makes this community stronger, more determined. There is a mutual understanding that only by working together, and using all of our collective skills, can we help raise the profile of Crohn’s and Colitis. We genuinely believe that one day, we will help find a cure which could change the world.
Sitting down one night, under a dimmed reading lamp, I began to explore case studies and personal accounts of Crohn’s and Colitis sufferers. I’m still not sure how long I sat in front of that screen. I was simply overcome by the countless stories of what these crippling, monstrous diseases can do to people. More than anything else, I felt an enormous sense of frustration. Why do people not know more about these conditions?
Simply put, it’s not fair.
I am still plagued by that question to this day, and I always will be. It’s what continues to motivate me. It’s the chance that, no matter how small my contribution might be, raising the profile of a charity such as Cure Crohn’s and Colitis could make a positive impact on someone’s life.
I may not suffer from these conditions, but I will continue to fight for a cure as if I had.
Thankfully I am not alone. It gives me great pleasure to know that there are many other tireless volunteers out there, all of whom selflessly dedicate countless hours of their lives to the cause.
Together, our aims are raising awareness, building traction and supporting medical research. The ultimate goal being not only increased knowledge of Crohn’s and Colitis, but increased funding for the fight against these conditions. Hopefully our efforts will lead to further advancement in the ground-breaking research which will one day, cure Crohn’s and Colitis.