Claire's Story

"I was 13 years old when I was officially diagnosed as having Crohn’s Disease. It was the summer of 1991. By the time, we finally reached that conclusion. I was about to start high school in the new year. 

For about six months prior, my Mum and I had been trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I kept complaining of sharp pains in my stomach. They were getting more frequent. They would come at weird times. Sometimes they’d pass briefly and sometimes I’d be doubled over while they happened. But then they’d pass and I’d be fine again. Mum assumed, at first, that I was possibly starting to experience menstrual cramps, that puberty was hitting, so she would give me Ponstan, which was a painkiller meant to treat period cramps. My period never came. The pains got worse. I lost a lot of weight and eventually became anaemic.

If that wasn’t bad enough, that was also the year the fates decreed that I had to get braces followed quickly by glasses because I couldn’t see a blackboard. It turns out that in 1991, the coolest we could find me were apparently still from the 80s. Therefore, by the end of that year – I looked like an emaciated secretary from ‘9 To 5’ meets that geeky kid from Sixteen Candles. Mollie Ringwald I was not.

In 1991, nobody had heard of Crohn’s disease. My GP hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong with me yet. My Mother, Melanie, worked in administration at a medical clinic, so she asked around. When another GP finally suggested that I might have a serious issue in my bowel, they found the one specialist in Auckland who might be able to clarify what was going on.

It felt incredibly scary to be going to a doctors’ office in the city. I don’t think I went to the city for anything back then except maybe a special trip to the movies with Mum. And we would usually take the bus in for that which made it a Great Fun Adventure! But I think we were dropped in by Dad who even took time off work for it, which made it A Very Serious Matter instead.

My Mum and I both recall only one thing at that visit. And excuse me if this tugs at any triggers for you – but it was as painful and invasive as it sounds…”