A woman living with Crohn’s has spoken about how she is aiming to break down misconceptions about the illness.

Arya Sunil, now aged 21 was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2013 when she started to get unusual symptoms on her first day of work experience at BT. As time went on, she progressively got worse until she couldn’t keep anything down and was in severe pain. 

After a visit to the GP, Arya was told she had an infection and that she just needed to keep her fluids up. However, Arya continued to have symptoms and a few weeks later she had lost a lot of weight. 

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By the time she saw her third GP, Arya was escalated quickly to hospital, where a CT and sigmoidoscopy confirmed her diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease.

Since her diagnosis Arya has tried numerous medications, including steroids and immunosuppressants, as well as developing complications such as a fistula and an abscess.

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She says, “I had to deal with not only the rapid progression and side effects of my aggressive Crohn’s but also South Indian ‘aunties’’ and ‘uncles’’ comments about my weight and remedies to cure me.

"I faced so much ignorance because of a complete lack of knowledge, I’d try and dress to look bulkier so aunties didn’t shove food in my face and uncles didn’t give me speeches about weight loss at parties and events.

"I was always ashamed to talk about Crohn’s but honestly I do not want anyone to feel the way others made me feel. 

"If I need the toilet best believe I’m not shy to announce it. I no longer foundation over my surgery scars because I’m no longer ashamed.”

As well as the stigma Arya faced within her culture, she has also experienced stigma when using an accessible toilet or needing a seat on the tube.

Even her university friends found it difficult to understand why Arya needed an en-suite bathroom, until they witnessed themselves how ill she could get. Arya says, “People don’t always understand because it’s an invisible condition. Sometimes people think I’m overreacting because I look healthy on the outside.”

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Now Arya has successfully graduated from university and although she is very conscious of her condition day-to-day, she has a really positive attitude and wants to raise awareness. 

She currently self-manages her condition and has made changes to her lifestyle including not drinking coffee, alcohol or meat. “I’m a Crohnie and I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing! I fight through pain and side effects because I’m so much more than just my Crohn’s.”

This year, Arya took place in Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s London WALK IT event and raised £250 amount for the charity. “It was so interesting and refreshing to talk to others who knew exactly what I was going through.”