Rasheed Clarke is not afraid to share what some might consider "his personal business." He writes about his gastroenterologist probing his abdomen, about having bloody stools after going for a run, and about the sensations he experienced when he didn't make it to the bathroom in time during an ulcerative colitis flare-up. And he makes these personal reflections public on his blog, where he positions himself as a "rebel without a colon."
Many of his readers appreciate that Clarke doesn't "whitewash" his symptoms, he says. "It's not exactly sanitized content, and how could it be when you're dealing with diarrhea and vomiting?"
Chronicling his journey with ulcerative colitis has helped Clarke make sense of personal challenges and it has also connected him to people facing similar situations, he says.
It started at a time when Clarke considered himself in good shape.
"I was 23 years old and training for a half-marathon. I was eating well and exercising – I thought I was doing everything in a healthy way, " he recalls. "Then, out of the blue, I couldn't stop going to the bathroom and was having bloody diarrhea 20 to 30 times a day."
When doctors arrived at the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, Clarke felt relieved to be able to put a name to the problem, he says. Over the next five years, he tried several therapies, with mixed results. "After a time of stability, my medications stopped working," he says. "I then tried different treatments – including diets and alternative therapies – but nothing really helped."
"Living with these diseases can be incredibly limiting and debilitating – why don't more people know they exist?"
- Rasheed Clarke
lives with and writes about ulcerative colitis
In 2013 and 2014, Clarke had two surgeries to remove his colon and replace it with a pelvic pouch, which serves as a surgically constructed internal reservoir. "After a number of problems and some time adjusting to the new gastrointestinal setup, things are more stable," he says. "Right now, I have six or seven bowel movements a day. But other than having to structure my day around bathroom trips, my life is pretty normal."
Clarke knows this is not a cure, and is aware of the risks associated with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. But he appreciates this new stability, which enables him to pursue a career and work with Crohn's and Colitis Canada, where he can use his writing skills to promote greater awareness.
"Before I was experiencing these symptoms, I had never heard of Crohn's or ulcerative colitis," he says. "Living with these diseases can be incredibly limiting and debilitating – why don't more people know they exist?"
Clarke, who has also published a book of short stories titled Three Tablets Twice Daily, says feedback tells him that his readers appreciate his honesty. They not only look for parallels to their own experiences in his writing – they also use it for reaching out to those around them.
"I want to help others who go through similar challenges," says Clarke. "Collectively, we can figure out a way to make things better."
To get involved, learn more about the No Forced Switch campaign and send a letter to your MPP, MLA or provincial minister of health visit action.crohnsandcolitis.ca.
To see your province or territory’s grade in the IBD Report Card and learn what you can do locally to help your voice be heard, visit badgut.org.
This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.