When some people are faced with a long term illness, it can be the crushing blow and an excuse of why they will never amount to anything. But the words of Ashara still echo in my ear, "I will never stop!". Today's blog is all about Ashara Keyes. A talented photographer I met in Croydon, South London. During this interview I learned there were many layers to her. On one level she is a young mother, on another level she seeks to make a change in the community by supporting people in need. Yes, I will be informing you about a condition she has to Crohn's disease, however people are not defined by conditions and there is a lot more to her than a condition.
Ashara attended a school called Selsdon high school in south Croydon. A practical learner, she was drawn to hands on subjects such as food technology, drama and design technology suited her. As a student she attended school just like any other going from year 7 to 9. She generally did well. However in year 9 her life took a turning. As some of us are aware school life can be harsh and this was no exception for her, due to personal circumstances Ashara found herself at the center of attention for reasons she had not intended. This led to prolonged periods of harassment, blackmail, stress and bullying this led to anxiety in year 9 (2010). Children can be cruel and often we fail to see the impact the odd joke can play on an individual. However for Ashara the torment had consequences that you would not of thought.
What she didn't know at this time, was she had a condition called Crohn's. This condition can flare up in stressful situations as stress is a trigger for her. Crohn's is a condition in which the NHS describes as "Crohn's disease is a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed". It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Ashara warned me that unlike irritable Bowel syndrome, her condition can lead to days of vomiting, serious malnutrition and even a colostomy bag in severe cases.
For Ashara she experienced rapid weight loss, and struggled to keep in food she ate. It took awhile for the condition to be diagnosed as it wasn't clear why her body was reacting in the way it did. She undertook stool samples, endoscopy and was eventually diagnosed in King's College Hospital in 2010.
Due to the condition she inevitably missed out on large portions of her school. Because of her appearance when she did arrive at school people would make comments or alienate her. Ashara didn't know anyone with the condition when she was first diagnosed. It was almost as if she was the only one, this lead to perceptions of loneliness, or feeling people couldn't relate to her.
Key facts about Crohn's
1. Crohn' Disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract producing symptoms of diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss
2. Crohn's disease has no cure, treatments try to lessen the effects or prevent them.
3. People often get diagnosed when 20-30 years of age
4. Irritable Bowel Disease affects 620,000 people in the United Kingdom
5. There is no known cause of the condition however smoking, genes, poor immune system, stomach bugs and abnormal balance of gut bacteria are believed to be contributing factors to getting the condition.
It was a shock to system to transform from no medication to taking 13 tablets per day. As a young person she did not expect such a fortune. Complying to medication was also a thing she found difficult. Who wants to take medication? Certainly not me, so this is something I can relate to. I need to be at death's door to consider support.
Ashara is a successful mother of a young child. After 8 years of not discussing her condition she took the step to reach out to the community. She has an ambition to set up a support group for those who have her condition, she does not want another person to feel they have to grow through it alone. It has not been an easy journey, there have been some hiccups but Ashara has a vision to be a source of strength to others and I wish her all the best.
I asked Ashara, "Do you ever feel like quitting?... Will your condition limit you?" She responded "The condition may limit me, but it won't stop me" furthermore "I may give in, but I will never stop!" Ashara is at the point where she is taking a step up, embracing what life dishes her and making the most out of it.
The advice Ashara would like to give for those who struggle with inflammatory of the bowels and are debilitating is;
Get it checked out as soon as possible. There are treatments or lifestyle adaptations that can prevent or reduce the likeliness of severe progressions of the condition. For those with a diagnosis, Ashara hopes that you would find the time to do the things you enjoy and to never lose your self worth.
Please consult your local GP if you are affected by any of concerns raised in this blog and please follow the medical advice given. You can also call 111 for non medical emergency advice and information. Ofcourse in life threatening situations please make your way to the nearest A&E department via 999 or any appropriate medium.
You can connect with Ashara on Instagram. www.instagram.com/asharakeyes
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/crohns-disease/ Accessed 24/08/2018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5369575/ Accessed 26/08/2018