This is the second interview in the series ‘Real Life Heroes’ (Read the first one here, in case you have missed it). This month, I am glad to share the life story of a young lady in her mid twenties who has been battling a chronic illness with a positive attitude toward life. Shawn Bethea in the last few years has felt tremendous mental as well as physical pain after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at an age when most teenagers start discovering the beauties of life.
Having seen the harsh side of life, she became stronger with each passing day. The result of this evolution is that today she runs two blogs to raise awareness about chronic diseases and help people with similar problems.
1)Hello Shawn, nice to have you here! Before we get started with the interview we would like to know about you!
Hello Tuhin, I am glad to be a part of this!
My name is Shawntel Bethea, most people call me Shawn. I am a 24-year-old blogger with a diverse background in healthcare, including: Medical Assisting, Coding and Insurance – which I have been working in for almost 5 years now.
“Words cannot explain the pain I was in, the pain I was initially just going to continue to hide. Having a chronic illness means you’ll (likely) have this illness for a lifetime.”
In 2014 I had my large intestines removed as a part of the 3-step IPAA “J-Pouch” surgery series. At that time, I lived with a temporary Ostomy and learned one of the most important things in life – How to love myself. In mid 2015 I had my ostomy reversed and now live a lovely life with much less UC symptoms and many happier times! I blog about my life, experiences with chronic illness, inspirational people and help people suffering from similar illness to lead a positive life by motivating them.
2) You have an impressive background. Say something about your chronic illness
A few years back I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and ulcers in the colon and rectum. Although there are treatment options and surgeries available, there is still no cure. Hopefully there will be a permanent cure someday.
3) How was the situation at home when you were first diagnosed of Ulcerative Colitis?
At the time of my diagnosis I was 17, living with my mom and sister. My mom has been sick (off and on) my entire life, but at that time she was doing okay. She stayed in the hospital with me the entire week or two while I went through multiple tests and procedures.
4) Have you ever felt shattered or broken and thought you cannot carry on anymore? And how did you fight back?
At one point I was on a high dose of steroids. While on steroids, you’re advised to stay away from people with even a common cold, as the steroids weaken your immune system. Even following that advice, somehow I still managed to get sick. I was dealing with not only my UC symptoms, but I also had a bad infection. At the time, working was the only thing that felt normal to me, so with everything I was going through I still tried to work – BIG mistake.
”I went to my grandma’s house and cried in the shower.First it was low, so no one would worry, but as the pain increased from standing so long, my cries got louder and louder.”
One of the managers (at my job) saw how sick I was and sent me to the physician on site. She immediately sent me to the emergency room. When I arrived I spent quite a few hours explaining how I felt, where the pain was, my symptoms. They ran tests and could find nothing, eventually they would send me home. I continued to go back, each day feeling worse and worse. Each day they sent me back home. After 3 or 4 times I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I went to my grandma’s house and cried in the shower. First, it was low so that no one would worry, but as the pain increased from standing so long, my cries got louder and louder. I got so upset to the point I began to hyperventilate.
On one occasion my grand dad came busting in hearing me cry, he repeatedly asked me what was wrong but I was too upset to answer. He called my grandmother who took me to the hospital and demanded someone to do a thorough exam. After running more extensive tests, I had surgery the same night. – In this situation I didn’t fight back. And sometimes that’s okay. It’s okay to be weak and to need help. I found strength through the love of my family.
Words cannot explain the pain I was in, the pain I was initially just going to continue to hide. Sometimes you need someone to be strong for you. Having a chronic illness means you’ll (likely) have this illness for a lifetime. You can’t do everything alone for an entire lifetime.
5) How supportive were your parents and partner throughout the ups and downs of your life?
My family has always been extremely supportive. Especially my grandparents. They’ve been by my side through everything. They’ve waited hours at a time during procedures and surgeries, slept in chairs beside me at the hospital. I couldn’t ask for better support. My boyfriend is also amazing. I’ve never met someone who is so interested in learning about my illness and medical history. He knows me so well he can even tell when I’m not feeling the best and takes great care of me!
6) Wow! Hats off to such a great family and a loyal partner. Okay I see you run a blog! Please tell us something about your blogging journey.
Thanks Tuhin, my family is my support system!
Well, In 2014 I started a blog called “Living with Colitis Daily” to share my story about my illness. – Since then I have evolved. I expanded my interests to not just Ulcerative Colitis, but chronic illnesses in general.
In mid 2016 I created a new blog, More Spoons. More Spoons is a Chronic Illness and Lifestyle blog. There I try to share information that I find useful, not just about being ill but life in general, express myself as an individual and “spoonie,” and serve as a friend and advocate to those in need.
I speak with people regularly and try to help them deal with the psychological aspect of this illness. I try my best to spread awareness about this disease and help people understand the complexities of the illness.
7) A lot of people around us are suffering from chronic illness . Any advice for them on how to face struggles in life with a smile?
I always stress that you are not alone. It may sound cliché, but there are so many resources out there. So many support groups, advocates who have been where you are. It’s okay to reach out for help. We all need help at some time.
8) Lastly, if you have to give a positive and motivating message from your life to my readers what would that be?
Never give up, on anything. Keep a positive mind and know that anything is possible. And trust me, anything is possible!
Thanks a lot, Shawn, for taking out the time to spend some time with us. I am sure your journey will motivate people suffering from similar health issues who lacks motivation to keep up the fight.
Do share your views regarding this post and if you think the story of your life can inspire people feel free to let me know. I will be happy to share your experiences in my blog.
Shawntel Bethea or Shawn is a 24 years old enthusiastic girl who likes to swim, ride bikes, eat and most importantly raise awareness about chronic illness! In 2010 she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Since then Pills, injections, infusions, tests, medicines and treatments became a regular affair, though none of which could ever control her active symptoms. In 2014 she had her large intestines removed as a part of the 3-step IPAA “J-Pouch” surgery series. She blogs about her life, experiences, inspirational people and motivating stuffs morespoons.com.
Link to her blog: www.MoreSpoons.com.
You can also reach her by visiting the following links: