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I'm a teacher with IBD

My name is Krista Nickerson. At the age of 9, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It is hard to believe that was 15 years ago. Since my diagnosis I’ve exceeded every medication thus far. The list is extensive ranging from Remicade to currently Stelara. I also lived with a feeding tube for 3 years when I was newly diagnosed because I was malnourished. I’ve also had two bowel resections. One when I was in high school that left me without my ileum. Then, my second was recent (not even a year ago) where I had 25 cm of my large bowel removed and ‘fixed’ 3 different areas in my small bowel due to inflammation and scar tissue.

Fast forward to my life today. I graduated last June from University of Calgary with my B.Ed. I now work as a French Immersion Kindergarten teacher to 16 energetic students. For as long as I can remember, being a teacher has always been one of my dream jobs. I was always so inspired by the teachers that I had in my life. I’ve had a couple that really meant a lot to me. Once I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, the importance of teachers and my inspiration to become a teacher was at an apex.

School wasn’t always easy for me, but I refused to let my Crohn’s Disease be an excuse to hold me back and not allow me to achieve my goals. Teachers always commented on how I was determined and even though missing a lot of school due to appointments, treatments and being sick, I always handed in my assignments on time. Teachers were accommodating and gave me extensions, but I still managed to complete my assignments on time. I hated being treated different from the others; I didn’t want any special treatment. That is still my mentality to this day. That is how I’ve completed a six-year post-secondary education consisting of two degrees.

I definitely owe it to MY teachers for the positive impact they had on my life and for the inspiration to becoming a teacher myself. I landed my first teaching job just a couple months after my last surgery; it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Being my ambitious self, I thought my health would be up to it even knowing how demanding of a job teaching can be, especially working with 4 and 5 year olds. As I’m about to wrap up my first year teaching; looking back it was definitely a hard year. In the fall, I started getting sick again. I started having severe diarrhea, I’m talking about going to the bathroom 20 times a day, I was dropping weight really fast and being exhausted to the point where I didn’t have the energy to stand in the shower. At first, I thought this was ‘normal’ to feel this way as a first year teaching, you know the late nights, prepping activities, planning fun and engaging units and lessons, correcting, grading and the list goes on.

It finally came to the point where I got admitted into the hospital for two weeks. I had severe inflammation and was pumped with medication by IV every day. I had taken a month leave from work to heal and get better. I had to make one of the most difficult choices but my doctors insisted that I reduce my hours at work and only work part-time. I had to let one of my classes go, I knew this would be the best for my students and myself. It wasn’t fair for myself to suffer but my students deserved to have a teacher who could give them 100% of themselves. I knew if I didn’t take care of myself now, my health would get worst and who knows how long I could teach.

During this time, I had a lot of time to reflect and had planned on telling my students and parents about my Crohn’s Disease but I was told by the school board to keep it from them because it is personal. At first, I was a little offended that I couldn’t share this with them but they explained how some parents might see that as a weakness and use that information against me. To think that people could use my Crohn’s Disease against me makes me angry and sad, it’s not like I chose this for myself but I can guarantee that I always put in 100% into everything I do and that may look different at times because of what my Crohn’s Disease decides to throw at me on certain days. I’ve definitely learned an important lesson this year, most importantly to listen to my body and to be open with my Administrators about my Crohn’s Disease and my needs. They’ve been super supportive and understand that sometimes I will be late for work because I can’t get off the toilet or I might not be able to make it to work at all because I am too sick. Some days, I need to leave early to attend appointments. But, I’ve never really been ashamed of my Crohn’s Disease because it has made me into the person I am today and being open about it is how to make people aware and raise awareness, which is something I am very passionate about.

Teaching definitely has its obstacles but teaching and having Crohn’s Disease is a totally different thing but with some accommodations it makes it a little easier. I know longer get ‘accidents’ while I’m teaching because I am able to rush off to the washroom whenever needed and remembering to take time for ME is the most important.

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