It’s Why Not Wednesday, but even better…It’s IBD Awareness Week!
IBD can be quite a detour – you know, that “detour” thing that my whole blog and LIFE is about.
If life’s taken you down an unexpected route, you’re a Detourist.
Odds are, you probably are a Detourist and don’t even know it. Check out my past Why Not Wednesday Detourists and get ready to be inspired – These amazing folks have turned their “detour” into an amazing opportunity. Now, I’m so excited for you to meet…
My name is Amber and I’m a Detourist.
The pen is mightier than the sword. These words were coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play, The Conspiracy. While I do not write plays, nor am I trained in the art of the sword, I feel like this phrase could be my mantra.
I was two when I first picked up a crayon and drew a picture. My mom came into the living room where I was watching Sesame Street.
“Amber, what is that?” She asked. She knew the answer, but because she was in disbelief, she needed confirmation.
“A telephone.” I answered.
Growing up, I can remember always loving to draw. The next drawing that sticks out in my mind was Batman. I had drawn a picture to send to the local TV station so I could go get a toy out of their toy chest. I was in awe as I saw my drawing on TV the following week or so.
“And this is Amber’s picture of Batman!”
My mother always encouraged me to draw. Cats, toasters, dolls, poster boys, you name it, I probably drew it. When I was twelve I began taking private art lessons. I loved every minute of it. Mrs. Perry, my art teacher, became like a grandmother to me (I still talk to her to this day).
I went through college and studied Graphic Design. I impressed all my art teachers who would ask me why I was not studying the Fine Arts. Honestly, I knew I couldn’t make money with an art degree and I had to be able to eat and pay off all those student loans.
It was in college that I fell in love with another type of art: the martial arts. Growing up I had a love and fascination for superheroes and karate and now I had a chance to learn what they knew: how to kick bad guy butt!
I achieved my green belt, but then college life kept me busy so I had to put karate on hold. I graduated with honors with a BS in Graphic Design and was able to land a job right out of college. It was crazy how things always worked out for me just the way they were supposed to.
I bought my first car (used), took up karate again, got my own apartment and soon I was dating a guy I met on eHarmony named Dave. He, too, was an artist. Life was exactly as it should be. I was on top of the world and living the dream… and then it happened.
I was six months away from getting my black belt—a dream of mine since I started karate. Around new year’s in 2011, my stomach started giving me trouble. I chalked it up to a stomach bug and thought nothing of it. By January 15th, I was having 20+ bathroom visits a day. Some of those visits I produced nothing but pools of blood in the toilet.
Must be hemorrhoids. I reasoned. That’s it. This stomach bug has irritated my butt.
Things got worse, and worse. I knew I couldn’t ignore it much longer. After several doctor visits, some stool samples, blood work, a colonoscopy, and a blood transfusion, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis on February 16th, 2011.
“Great! Now I know what it is, I will just take my pills and be ok.” Famous last words.
I struggled through my first flareup, as many do, but after a second opinion, I was able to get my disease under control and I was in remission. I married Dave on October 23, 2011 and for six glorious months, we lived in wedded bliss without a care in the world.
Work called us away to West Virginia. Being so far away from home was difficult, but not unbearable, and it was only for a short time. And then, it happened. I saw blood in the toilet. I rushed home, was put on 40mg of Prednisone and again was able to enjoy remission.
2013 rolled around and again, I was hit with another flare. This one would last for over a year with various medicines, Prednisone rounds, tears, diet changes, sleepless nights, ER visits, etc., etc.
2014 rolled around and I was SURE I would be ok. January passed, then February and March. I was sick. Tired. Depressed. Discouraged. Bitter. My husband was also frustrated. He had to watch night after night, day after day as I struggled through work and tossed and turned all night. Nothing was helping.
One day, on our way to work, I was daydreaming and pondering the meaning of life. Suddenly inspiration hit.
“Hey babe… I’ve been thinking about blogging about IBD.”
“Ok, cool. If you feel like you should, do it!”
That night, I took my mighty pen and started drawing—something I hadn’t really done much of in ages. What took shape before my eyes was a little ninja in a dark suit wearing a diaper and toilet paper with a spoon strapped to her back and a bar of soap in her hand. Ulcerative Colitis Ninja—no! Colitis Ninja.
I was never much of a cartoonist. My usual drawings consisted of people and faces. Realism was my forte. Yet here she was. Staring back at me. I had an instant connection. The next day I got on Twitter, Facebook and Blogger and started blogging. Colitis Ninja became my outlet in which I could convey and express my frustrations with my disease.
Slowly but surely, my attitude went from one of despair, to one of hope. I started laughing again. I made friends with people who understood what I was going through. Life started making sense again. I had found my purpose.
The ninja’s look has changed since that fateful night, but she’s still the same little ninja who stared back at me all those many months ago. She helped me find myself that day. She gave me joy. She helped me find the strength to keep fighting. Colitis Ninja is not only my purpose… she is my destiny.
That is why…I #LoveMyDetour!
Amber Elder is a patient-advocate blogger. She has been drawing and designing professionally since 2008. She earned a BS in Graphic Design from Mississippi College. She was diagnosed in 2011 with ulcerative colitis. She now lives with her husband, David, in Louisiana.
Wow, Amber, you are not only an excellent cartoonist colitis ninja – you are a Ninja of Life! You go girl!
I’m speechless/blogless, so I’ll end Why Not Wednesday here – it is always amazing for me to see others using art and humor to make their detour into a beautiful journey. And Amber, I know you have made people smile all over cyber space. Keep on cartooning, living, and being the kick-butt Ninja you !
Your turn, Detourist!
Tell me about a time you turned a “wrong way” into the best trip of your life.
Or maybe you’re still waiting for your trip to be worth while. Keep traveling. You’ll get there.
I #LoveMyDetour. Now tell me why you love yours.
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