The Sidebar: When were you first diagnosed with IBD and how did that change your life?
Jaana: IBD-symptoms appeared in the summer of 2017. I was pregnant at the time and in the beginning I wondered if the symptoms were related to the pregnancy. When the symptoms got worse, I turned to the doctor and he ordered a fecal calprotectin test. A few days later, my symptoms got even worse, so I had to go to the emergency room. They were not sure what was going on and where I should be admitted because I was already 19 weeks pregnant. Then they decided to take me to the gastroenterology ward and ordered a colonoscopy. At the same time, I got the results from the fecal calprotectin test and it was an astonishing 3590. The reference is 0-100 so it meant that the inflammation was hitting hard and I was diagnosed with UC. I had to be off work for 4-5 weeks and I was under strict care for the rest of the pregnancy. The changes to my everyday life were enormous, in addition to taking on a new role of being a mother.
The Sidebar: IBD affects over three million people in Europe, so you are not alone. But did you feel isolated to begin with?
Jaana: In the beginning I kept asking myself, why did this need to happen me now? The beginning of the pregnancy was not easy because of nausea and worsening migraines. But I think I would have been more shocked if we had not faced serious illness in our family before. Based on that experience, I knew that everyone would be taking good care of me and that the situation would be monitored closely. Coming back to work after a long absence made me feel distressed and I was constantly thinking about how my co-workers felt about me being away for such a long time. What also helped was that I was always able to call the clinic or leave a message for the IBD nurses there if I was troubled or worried. The early days after the diagnosis would have been so much more challenging without my trusted IBD-nurse Karoliina, who now works for Sidekick. She had the time to listen to me and she was able to explain everything and answer all my questions.
The Sidebar: IBD can be kept under control with medication, but lifestyle factors are also extremely important when comes to the quality of life for people with IBD. How has Sidekick helped you in your everyday life?
Jaana: Sidekick has helped me to control my diet and boost my physical activity. I also like the mindfulness exercises a lot. The daily tasks the program prompts me to do, as well as collecting water when completing them for the children in need, are an extremely big motivator. The app works as a little “ass-kicker” when it comes to physical activity. For example, it gives me a daily goal to reach 19,000 steps. And YES I feel a bit annoyed if I do not reach that goal, even if I only miss it by a 100 steps.