Don't be embarrassed about symptoms - colitis survivor
A Dublin woman who had 14 surgeries has told about the difficulties faced by people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
Natalie Doyle (36) was too embarrassed to discuss bowel problems with her trusted GP.
Her reluctance to discuss her symptoms, coupled with a doctor who misdiagnosed her condition for more than a year, have had long-lasting implications for her health.
Ms Doyle wants to share her own brave story of living with ulcerative colitis to give hope to the estimated 40,000 people in Ireland suffering from IBD, including colitis and Crohn's disease.
She began experiencing problems with her digestive system when she was in her late adolescence.
Throughout her teens and 20s, she visited GPs as she suffered from unexplained weight gain, a bloated stomach and "grumbling sounds" from her stomach.
She was diagnosed with the disease in May 2003.
Despite the diagnosis, her condition worsened.
By 2007, her condition had deteriorated considerably and she would undergo a total of 14 surgeries.
Ms Doyle was eventually fitted with a type of colostomy bag.
Added to that trauma was the loss of her hair following a blood transfusion.
Yet despite the ordeal, she maintained a positive attitude.
"I just felt so lucky to be alive. I was so just so happy I got through it," she said.
She regrets being too "embarrassed" to discuss her symptoms with a second doctor before the disease progressed.
"If it was caught at the beginning, it could have been managed with just medication," she said.
"The reason I didn't go to another doctor was out of embarrassment.
"But these things need to be talked about."
She shared her story as part of World Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseDay today.
The Irish Society for Colitis & Crohn's disease (a patient support group) has launched an awareness campaign called #DoubleUp which is calling on the government, through an online petition, to double the number of specialist IBD numbers in Ireland - bringing the number from 14 to 28 nurses in line with IBD treatment recommendations and best practice across other European countries like the UK.