05/18/2017 01:35 EDT | Updated 05/18/2017 01:42 EDT

A Canadian Perspective On World IBD Day

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Crohn's disease or Crohn syndrome and regional enteritis. Signs and symptoms. Human silhouette with highlighted internal organs

Imagine if you were sick but people didn't believe you.

Imagine you had to describe symptoms you'd rather keep private - like bloody diarrhea, excruciating abdominal pain, anxiety and fatigue - in order to convince someone you were actually sick.

This is far too often the situation that people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have to face. In many cases people with IBD look perfectly 'normal' on the outside, but inside they're confronting an incurable immune system dysfunction that's causing their body to attack itself.

Approximately one in 150 Canadians have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis - the two main forms of IBD. These incidence rates are some of the highest in the world. What's more, the number of Canadian children under the age of five diagnosed with Crohn's or colitis grew by 7.2% between 1999 and 2010.

But it's not just the people diagnosed who feel the effects of IBD. In Crohn's and Colitis Canada's 2012 Impact of IBD Report, we found that caregiver costs for parents of children living with these diseases totaled $7 million. Even if you take the staggering financial cost out of the equation, parents are still left to bear the emotional toll of caring for a child who deserves better health.

Without awareness and empathy, Canadians can be left to battle their disease in silence, and the isolation only makes life with IBD that much harder. That's why May 19, World IBD Day, is so vital. It's an opportunity to bring Crohn's and colitis into the open and show everyone impacted that their challenges are real and recognized, and that they're not alone in taking on the disease.

Crohn's and Colitis Canada promises to cure IBD and better the lives of everyone affected by these diseases. The first step to achieving this is to raise awareness and unite people in the fight.

Last year over 140 landmarks worldwide were lit in purple for World IBD Day to raise awareness of the disease, including many from across Canada. On May 19, we'll be turning the Science World in Vancouver, CN Tower, Niagara Falls, Montreal and Halifax City Halls, and many more landmarks purple again. We'll also be posting plenty more about Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - find us @getgutsycanada.

But even more than spotting purple places and retweeting posts on World IBD Day, I hope you'll take a moment to think about just how hard life can be with inflammatory bowel disease. Think about what it would be like to have to use the bathroom 30 times in one day. Think about being so exhausted that you aren't able to get out of bed. Think about how anxious you'd feel if a medication you were on showed signs of failing. And think about how all of that, can be just another day in the life of someone with IBD.

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