My name is Natalie Davis and I have lived in Sheffield all of my life. I am 46 years old and was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1993 which means I have been living with Crohn’s for over 25 years. Today, I'm talking about my experience of volunteering and how it has affected me.
after being diagnosed I joined a group called NACC (National Association for
Crohn’s & Colitis). I paid a small annual subscription and received
quarterly newsletters informing me of ongoing research etc. and local upcoming
events. I occasionally attended awareness days run by the South Yorkshire
I attended my first Education Day at the Northern General Hospital in
1994 with my parents for emotional & physical support as I had just
undergone my first Major surgery 4 weeks prior.
I entered the Education Centre cautiously as I wasn’t quite sure what to
expect. As I entered the room I had an overwhelming feeling that everyone had
stopped what they were doing and turned to look at me. (the scenario of walking
into a bar and the piano stops and everyone turns and stares). As I moved
further into the room, I began to relax a little and at that point it hit me – I
was the youngest their by far and I got the impression that if you hadn’t
recently been to the hairdressers for a blow & set or over the age of 60, you
didn’t belong there.
Over my 25
years with Crohn’s disease I have undergone 10 major surgeries – including 2 stomas’
(I still have one), a period on a life support machine after my bowels burst
and was given only 6 hours to live, but I’m still here alive & kicking. My
wardrobe consists of clothes from a size 8 to a size 20. When my illness is at
its worst I can lose weight quite dramatically, but then the treatment and
steroids kick in and I begin to balloon including my face which they call
mooning. At my lightest I was 6 stone and at my heaviest 14 stone. This can
have quite an emotional effect on your wellbeing. At the moment I’m somewhere
in the middle but try not to worry about my weight.
suffer with various illness’ and problems due to the years of medications,
surgeries and generally the Crohn’s itself. I have problems with my skin due to
damage caused by the sun and the medication. I have had over 400 lumps removed
by various techniques before they have a chance to turn cancerous, as 2 have
previously turned into skin cancer and led to surgery and skin grafts. I also
have osteo arthritis in my joints, AMD (age related molecular degeneration)
which may lead to blindness depending how quickly it advances and depression to
name a few.
years have passed by and the relapses, hospital stays, surgeries and recovery
have come and gone I believe my experiences have made me the person I am today
and brought out my true personality. I love to meet new people sharing my
experiences, encouraging and helping others.
personality and confidence has changed so also has NACC and is now called CCUK
(Crohn’s & Colitis UK) and their logo colour is now purple.
continued to occasionally attend the lectures until about 2 years ago in which
I attended a lecture at the NGH to find that things had changed quite
dramatically for the better. There were more younger people attending and also
helping through volunteering it seemed to have an air of positivity and
rejuvenation that filled the room. It was at this meeting I first met Sam
Cleasby @sam_scope her talk had left me in tears as the realization hit me of
how much I had been through, but not only myself but my nearest and dearest, my
family and friends. At this point I felt invigorated and my passion for
I became a
South Yorkshire Network Volunteer in 2017 which has helped me continue to grow
as a person, given me more confidence and given me a purpose in life. I feel
that the things I’ve experienced and learnt have not been in vain. I now know
how Crohn’s & Colitis affects people and their friends and family both
physically, mentally and emotionally.
Life is too
short to allow Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) to dominate, dictate and consume your whole life.
WITH IBD – MAKE IBD LIVE WITH YOU!
absolutely love volunteering and the feeling I get from achieving a successful
fund-raising event or awareness event, along with making new friends and
sharing experiences. It is so inspiring and motivational to continue. Up to now
our South Yorkshire team has raised over £4000. I now look more to the
positives in life and love helping other people which maintains my
determination in all I do.
I do suffer
from Depression which many people with long term illness’ do, but I keep this
controlled most of the time by medication. Feeling low can be very destructive
to your mind and body. Volunteering always lifts my spirits and my volunteering
friends along with people I have met through volunteering are always there for
support and to help through the rough times.
holds Coffee mornings every other month which are great for meeting new friends
and sharing stories – Usually involving poo,
no! its not embarrassing, we all do it, just from different apertures
I have a
stoma called Bobi, I am not ashamed or embarrassed by him. He saved my life and
gave me the courage and determination to be who I am and become a volunteer. My
illness does not define me, my strength and courage does, and as I always say:
I was given this life because I’m strong enough to live it!
Do you volunteer? What made you start and how has it affected you?
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