June 2nd: Gun Violence Awareness Day

Warning: Mentions of homicide, gun violence, and death. Please don’t read this blog if any of the aforementioned is your trigger.

So I’m late on this, mainly because I didn’t get home that night until after 9:30 PM. June 2nd is Gun Violence Awareness Day. On this day, people wore orange and there were events. I don’t have an orange shirt, so I couldn’t wear an orange shirt. There was a rally in this nearby big city which included sharing stories of those who died from gun violence and a fun parade. I wish I was there too, since I want to become a better advocate by attending actual events.

Why do I care about decreasing the number of gun violence incidents? My friend from middle school died from gun violence in July 2016.

I’ll tell you about my friend. Her name was Jenna and she moved into the house next door to me during the summer of 2003. We started middle school together and we were on the same team (at my middle school, everyone was in a team, and each team had a set of teachers. Your team started with a number, which is the grade you are in. My friend and I were on team 6-south). She played soccer and I played tennis. In the middle of seventh grade, she moved away and she lived with her grandmother. We would e-mail and write letters to each other, but that stopped when she gave birth to her son during high school.

I only found out about her being killed because I looked her up in January and the first results on Google were about her death. She was sitting in her car when she was shot, and she drove herself to the hospital. She was 24, and what made her death sadder was that she had given birth to her third child a few weeks before she was killed. She was not being targeted for any reason, but she was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m not the only one with a story like this, where someone you once knew was killed due to gun violence. Let’s work together to decrease gun violence.


World IBD Day: My Workout Buddy Has Ulcerative Colitis

Disclaimer: Diaryofself will mention medical symptoms and medical stuff in this post. This post is not a substitute for a trained medical professional. Diaryofself is not a medical professional, but a software developer. I don’t even play a medical professional on TV. If you are having symptoms of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, see a doctor. Also, if you see that I mentioned something incorrect about IBD on this post, please tell me! I don’t want to contribute to the spread of misinformation.

Hello, my lovely readers! It’s another awareness blog! Today on May 19th, we celebrate World IBD Day. This is the day where people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (shortened to IBD), their caregivers, friends, significant others, and families come together to raise awareness and fight IBD. The most common Inflammatory Bowel diseases include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (though people have heard of Crohn’s and not ulcerative colitis). You’ll often hear about someone’s experience with IBD, but we don’t often enough hear about the people who are a part of their support system. Families and friends are affected by someone’s chronic illness as well. However, remember that we should not speak over top of the people who live it. We will never fully understand what they’re going through, even if we hear their stories. Why do I care about World IBD Day? While I do not have IBD, my workout buddy (mentioned in an earlier blog post) has ulcerative colitis. We should also care about this day of spreading awareness for the reasons Colitis Ninja mentioned in one of her blog posts from 2015.

To start off, I shall link you to a few blogs that I recommend. I used these blogs to raise my personal awareness of ulcerative colitis when my workout buddy (the same awesome one I mention in this blog post) told me of his diagnosis within the past few years.

Fierce and Flared. This blog is written by a woman named Brooke. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2012, had her colectomy and temporary ileostomy in 2013, and now has a jpouch. She also has done advocacy work to raise awareness and is the founder and editor-in-chief of Companion Magazine for IBD.

Colitis Ninja. Colitis Ninja was started by Amber as her personal form of therapy. The ninja represents a fighter, since people with invisible illnesses fight every day and despite their outward appearance, their bodies are declaring war on the inside. The goal of the site is to provide support to patients and caregivers living with ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, indeterminate colitis, jpouches, and ostomies. She also creates restroom access cards to give people with IBD access to bathrooms that aren’t often granted to the public. Note: As of this post, she is only selling the access cards in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the UK.

I feel like this blog post will get long, so many apologies for that. Awareness can’t exactly be done in 140 characters like a tweet. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is commonly diagnosed before the age of 35, but diagnoses have been made later in life (my workout buddy was in his mid-40s when he was diagnosed). It used to be thought that diet and stress were causes of IBD, but there is no known cause. However, it is suggested that genetics, environment, and immune system causes may be a possibility. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis symptoms can include abdominal pain/discomfort, blood or pus in stool, fever, weight loss, frequent diarrhea, fatigue, reduced appetite, and a sudden urge to have a bowel movement. Source

Crohn’s disease symptoms include frequent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever, abdominal pain/cramping, fatigue, and reduced appetite. Note: Crohn’s disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract, so partial or total removal of the colon will not “cure” Crohn’s. Source

Note: People with IBD can also experience joint pain and other symptoms that are not GI-related. Both of these diseases have many symptoms in common, and there have been cases of misdiagnoses between the two common Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Honest conversations must be held between you and your healthcare provider. I know, people get all shy when talking about poop and people are embarrassed to say that they sometimes don’t make it to the bathroom in time before having incontinence.

As I stated earlier, my workout buddy has ulcerative colitis. Since I only see him during the boxing and kickboxing classes, it doesn’t affect me too much. Sometimes, I don’t see him that day if his symptoms are present or if he’s tired. When people ask me where he is, I sometimes don’t know. Now that I have his number, I often know ahead of time if he’s going to have to skip working out. He’s a very funny guy, but I sometimes question if he’s legitimately funny or if it’s just a mask that he’s wearing (people with chronic illnesses can develop anxiety and/or depression). Because his medication lowers his immune system, I sometimes worry if he’s going to once again catch and infection and lose the battle. Back in November, months before I met him, he got MRSA and it went into his bloodstream. After many antibiotics, doctors didn’t know what else was going to help get rid of the MRSA. My workout buddy had to face the reality that he was likely going to die. But he’s still alive. I don’t know how, but something worked. What if something like that happened again? Would he make it this time? It’s something I don’t like thinking about, but I know it’s a real possibility.

So what are some things you can you do if someone you love and/or know has Irritable Bowel Disease? It can all be summed up by one thing: treat them as if they were a healthy individual.

  1. Still invite them out to places, even though they may have to decline at the last minute due to feeling very unwell.
  2. Increase your own awareness of their specific disease to better understand what’s going on (but remember that you will not truly understand what they’re going through if you have a healthy colon).
  3. Know what things to not say to someone with IBD. Gutsy Ginger does a good job in the linked blog post with telling you what not to say, and unlike many other people with IBD, she tells you what things to say instead.
  4. Ask them how they’re doing. It shows that you care about them.
  5. Believe them. This is very important for people with IBD or any other invisible illness. Sadly, people with invisible illnesses aren’t taken as seriously as those with a visible illness because they look fine on the outside.

This is not an inclusive list. I hope you all learned a little more about Irritable Bowel Disease. Here’s my video about it. If you make it to the end of this blog and saw that I mentioned something incorrect about IBD, please tell me! I don’t want to contribute to the spread of misinformation.


Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness: Be Seen in Green Day!

Hello my readers! Today is Friday, April 21st. It’s no ordinary day, according to The Living Legacy Foundation. Living Legacy and Donate Life set today to be something called “Be Seen in Green Day” (although with Donate Life, it’s “Be Seen in Blue and Green Day”) where people wear green in order to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation. I apologize if I cite a lot of sources, but people nowadays like seeing sources to back up statements.

In Maryland, where The Living Legacy Foundation is based, nearly 3800 people are waiting for a life-saving organ. This number varies from state to state. Wearing green will honor the thousands of donors and their families who were kind enough to save and improve lives through the power of donations. You can also start conversations about donating organs and tissues to raise awareness, since wearing a color won’t be enough.

Organ donation is a topic very important to me. I first found out about organ donation when an uncle died in October 2003. I later found out that he was an organ donor and my family went to the annual Ceremony of Remembrance in 2004. In January 2007, another uncle died. He was also an organ donor (I think my grandparents made the decision for him to be an organ donor since he did not have the mental capability to make the decision himself). At that year’s Ceremony of Remembrance, my family was there for two brothers instead of one. Because of my uncles, when it was time to test for my learner’s permit a year after my second uncle’s death, I chose to be an organ donor and have a picture of a small heart on the permit and license. No one knew ahead of time that I was going to say “yes” to being an organ donor. Years later, in November 2010, my middle school friend died. When I went to her memorial service, I saw the familiar organ donation medal that was given to my family for my uncles. Thanks to my decision to become an organ donor and my uncles and friend being donors, I have been able to get more people in my family to become organ donors. I one day want to speak at the Ceremony of Remembrance hosted by Living Legacy Foundation to share my uncles’ and friend’s stories, tell how they inspired me to be an organ donor, and to inspire other people to become organ donors.

There are some myths about organ donation that people hear, and it causes them to not want to donate. The number one reason I’ve heard when people say they don’t want to donate is because of a myth that the medical team will not work as hard to save your life if they find out you’re a donor. First, the donation team is completely different from the medical team that sees you. Second, any competent medical team will do everything they can to save your life. They don’t like telling family members that their loved one has died. Organ and tissue recovery won’t start until every single effort has been exhausted and you have been declared dead by the attending physician. Source with other myths

I will talk about this again in the future, but there is a need for more people of color and multiracial people to donate. Nearly 58% of people on the national transplant waiting list in the United States are people of color and even though transplants can be successful between a donor and recipient of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, transplants are often more successful between people of the same racial and ethnic backgrounds. Source

Some more fun facts:

  • You can be a donor at any age, so don’t worry if you think you will be ineligible to donate if you end up living to be at least 70.
  • If you have certain illnesses, you won’t automatically be ineligible to donate organs. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine which organs can be donated. Source for this fact and the previous fact
  • Just like if you donated blood, one person can save multiple lives. You can save up to 8 lives by donating organs, restore the sight of one or two people by donating your corneas, and heal up to 75 people by donating your tissues. Source, which includes more statistics. Scroll down to see the source of this fact

Tell me, readers. Do you know someone who was an organ donor? Are you registered as an organ donor? You can start raising awareness by sharing the sources on this blog, talking to family and friends about wanting to donate organs, or debunk myths when you hear someone say or see someone write about a myth causing them to not want to donate. Until next time, stay informed and be a hero to someone.

Link to The Living Legacy Foundation

Link to Donate Life Website