A bully calls you names, spreads rumours about you, and spits in your face. You ignore the names, you dismiss the rumours, and you stoically wipe the saliva off your face. Then your bully makes “Your Mom is so dumb” jokes, or talks about your best friend’s visible imperfections – “What’s up with the gap in her teeth?”, “He has pizza face!” or “He has pubic hair on his chin” – and suddenly you’ve rolled up your sleeves and you’re ready to smack a jerk.

The above may contain exaggerations, but I feel this applies to a lot of people: It’s okay if you hurt me, but you will feel pain if you hurt someone who means a lot to me.

What happens when the person hurting the person you care for, is the same person? That’s right: Rasheed might just be the most self-deprecating man on earth, and I don’t know whether to slap him or kiss him.

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I have neglected this blog for too long for reasons I shan’t delve into, but I want to say that I appreciate all those who still drop by and read about my adventures with one Rasheed Clarke. Whatever has changed in my personal life that stopped me from writing about my experiences with this disease, what I can say is that I took away from it a great understanding and appreciation of the impact this previously-unknown-to-me disease has on people, and I am proud if I ever enlightened anyone else on ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in general.

In the name of all great things I accomplished with this blog and documented in this blog – personal and otherwise – I’d like to continue to champion the awareness of ulcerative colitis. Seriously considering it, I checked out the Zane Cohen Centre at Mt. Sinai’s IBD Support Group.

Below are events they have planned out for the next few months. And hey, check out a very familiar name there. Read More

So far, I have taken a light-hearted tone to everything that has to do with Rasheed and his ulcerative colitis, but the truth is it gets pretty bad, and often I don’t know what to do.

Imagine sitting in the passenger seat of a slow-moving CRV (Abacus!). Imagine sitting next to a driver whose large, amber eyes fill with tears. Imagine he’s driving you home because he knows you’re tired from a long hard day at work, so he shuts out the abdominal cramps and the crippling foresight of what may happen soon (a flare-up).

Imagine you ask him, in a small voice, what you can do to help.

Imagine he answers, “I don’t know.”

You’re trapped by the seatbelt, unable to even reach out for a hug. You can’t wipe the tears away because you’re too short to reach.

But it’s not about your helplessness. It’s about his. And it’s not about imagining; it’s real. It happened, and it’s about Rasheed driving me home while crying because he’s in physical, emotional and psychological pain.

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That awkward moment when you have to ask your boyfriend about your “future together.”

A lot of people see my boundless energy as a marker of childishness, but the few people who truly know me can attest that I’m a bit of an ‘old soul’ (and that I’m a tad bat-shit crazy). I haven’t been “too young” to think about my future since I was ten years old.

As more time passes while I’m with my 27-year-old boyfriend, “my”future very gradually morphs into “our.”

Problem: I have a boyfriend whose life goals differ from mine.
Solution: Ask him about the rest of our lives our future. So I did.

Me: No pressure. No details. Just curious. Do you see me in your future at all?

Him: Of course, yes.

Me: But we want completely different things in life. I’ve always known I want biological children. You want to adopt.

Him: I wouldn’t be opposed to a compromise. Do you see a future for us?

Me: Yes.

“A definite point of contention.” Ready to contend? Silent treatment in 3…2…!

I’m twenty-one now. I’m not “too young” to think about my future, but I’m certainly still too young to act on it. Just like I’ve been too young to move to Barcelona at 19, have three kids at 11, and build a home at 9 years old.

If Rasheed and I do reach a point where we get to plan a future together, the discussion on children would be a necessary but definite point of contention.

On the subject of children, I think we share the same concern.

Will his children inherit his ulcerative colitis?

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I don’t hate you. But if you were on fire and I had water, I’d drink it.

Although this blog focuses a lot on Rasheed’s Ulcerative Colitis, before a UC patient, Rasheed is my boyfriend first. Ulcerative Colitis only adds a dimension to the already adventurous dynamics of our romantic relationship.

Like any other couple, Rasheed and I fight. His UC definitely adds a dimension to that. Not only do I have to take care to never throw ass-related insults at him, I also have to be sensitive to the prospect that maybe he didn’t call me last night because he was stuck in the washroom and I can’t get mad at him for that.

Our First Fight: Happy 21st Birthday!

Our first big fight happened on my birthday weekend.

I celebrated it in a nightclub with friends new and old. I drank. I stumbled. I puked. Rasheed was maaaad. Rasheed inadvertently criticized my friends along with criticizing my partying ways.

Oh-ho-ho. Was he in a whirlwind of Super Saiyan Goku ass-whooping for that!

(Oh. Wait. “Ass-whooping.” Oops.)
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IBD attacks not just your tum-tum, but your ego, too.

“My ex-husband had Crohn’s Disease. We were together for 20 years and I did everything to help him. But it’s not just the disease you’re fighting with.
It’s a whole nimbus cloud of depression and grumpiness and bitterness that comes along with it. He gambled and did drugs and smoked and drank himself stupid. By the end of our marriage, he was no longer the man I married.
I wouldn’t recommend getting involved with someone like that.
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t.

–A “testimonial” of a friend at work

I guess you could ask, “So what if your friend at work said this?”

If you didn’t catch it, by ‘someone like that’, she meant someone who’s sick, someone who has an inflammatory bowel disease, someone like Rasheed.

Kind of makes you think: if Crohn’s Disease was bad enough to pull a man to ruins and to wreck a family, will Rasheed, inflicted by ulcerative colitis, head down that same road?

After all, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease are the two main inflammatory bowel diseases. They are very close cousins. They are very alike in symptoms. They often encourage the same bitter mentality in their patients. They both strike their respective patients with abdominal pains and — yes, you guessed it — the shits.

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Treating the heart and the colon 

I found out four months into our relationship that Rasheed had a flare-up during our first dates, which is why he took a while to ask me out on.

When I asked him why he didn’t tell me, Rasheed answered:

“I didn’t want to give you any more reasons to not want to be with me.”

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For that cloud of negativity that follows UC around, I prescribed him a jar of pills.

The Pill Jar: White, green, orange, blue and pink notes of inspirational quotations, sentimental words, entreaties to smile, pick-up lines, jokes and sincere praises rolled into 100+ empty pill capsules and housed in a jar with the cutest metallic clasp.

Prescription: One per shitty day. Pun intended.

Why the pill jar?: It’s easy to think that you don’t deserve the best, especially on the shittiest days.

I have never seen Rasheed’s ulcerative colitis as a reason to not be with him. The pill jar is to remind him that his UC does not make him any less wonderful and that his UC should never deter him from pursuing anything.

Rasheed deserves what makes him happiest always. Nothing, not even his ulcerative colitis, should make him think otherwise.

Rasheed swears that the pill jar is the most wonderful gift he has ever received. But of course,  as fat and jolly as the pills make his heart, Rasheed still relies on real, tangible medications to get him through his flare-ups.

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My friends and I hug our brown LCBO bags.

Appleton Rum, check

 Jägermeister, check

 Blueberry-flavored Absolut, check

 Pack of beer, check

Virgin drinks for my boyfriend Rasheed who cannot have alcohol, oh crap…

Ulcerative colitis and medicine and alcohol don’t go together.

The pamphlet

Foods UC patients generally avoid:

  • Spicy foods
  • High-fibre foods (wholegrain cereals, breads)
  • Dried beans and nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Caffeine (Poor, poor un-drank coffee.)
  • Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol…

So I stare at a pamphlet on the LCBO bulletin board. I pluck out the pamphlet from the wall: Mocktails for Mom. Be Safe: Have an alcohol-free pregnancy.

 “Mocktails for Mom” for Rasheed, why not?

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The unbelievable happens: I get a boyfriend.

Almost six months after we started a relationship and almost four since he had officially asked me to be his girlfriend, the word ‘boyfriend’ still feels alien to my never-been-girlfriend-to-anyone tongue.

“Hu-wat?!” You say, “A first boyfriend at twenty?! That’s as uncommon as virgins these days!”

Alas, I speak the truth. Particular members of the male species had always just been “my romantic interest”, “some guy I’m seeing”, “this dude I like”, and even “that boyfriend-material guy friend”.

In my head, I expected my first boyfriend to (be):

EXPECTATION
  • Korean or Japanese or Chinese
  • a great dancer
  • a guitar player
  • have the stereotypically narrow ‘Asian’ eyes
  • stand at 5”8 so I could tiptoe when we kissed
  • drive a BMW
  • have silky straight hair; and finally
  • a top pop idol singer.

In reality, instead, I landed a 5’11 radio announcer:

REALITY

Rasheed Clarke sat two seats away from me in my Making a Book class during third year in university. He helped me in class with his stupid advanced knowledge in InDesign, and he made me laugh with his stupid funny comments. He had long, stupid dark eyelashes that outlined his stupid brown almond-shaped eyes, and he always wore a stupid green toque.

We were friendly, we talked. And — Poof! — one summer day after the semester, we walked down Burnhamthorpe Trail together on our first date.

Having girlfriends who had boyfriends prepared me for the general dynamics of a relationship:

Promise to call here; he didn’t call there.
I love you this; Screw you that.

What my friends couldn’t teach me, however, was how to react when you and your boyfriend are in the middle of an afternoon walk, and he’s hit with the urge to shit.

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