Autoimmune Stories:

Hannah’s Story: Celebrating Progress While Battling Crohn’s Disease

Hannah Edwards August 12, 2022

Sometimes, autoimmune disease completely alters the timeline that you had envisioned for your life. When Hannah was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at just 15 years old, her whole life changed. In the beginning, Hannah’s illness drained her of health, social activities, and time. As she navigated these challenges, Hannah began to work out a new timeline for her life. Hannah’s story is a reminder that progress is worth celebrating, even when chronic illness slows you down.


Read Hannah’s autoimmune story to learn about her journey and to find out where she is now.

Hannah's Story

Hi! I’m Hannah, a 22-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease just after my 15th birthday, after roughly 6 months of fevers, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

The hardest thing about being diagnosed as a teenager was feeling isolated. I missed out on so many school days, birthdays, parties, family occasions, and trips. My peers and teachers struggled to understand what I was going through and I remember feeling very alone during this time. I would get in trouble for not handing in assignments on time, missing school, and leaving classes to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t reliable and I struggled to stick to plans, which made socializing extremely challenging. After I started biological treatment, my health slowly began to improve and I was able to enjoy life again– however, this didn’t last long. During my 8 years of living with this illness, there have been many ups and downs. I have a flare-up that lands me in the hospital at least once a year, and oftentimes my medications give me terrible side effects. 

Regardless, things are much better than they were back then. I will never forget the fear I felt the first time I noticed blood.

When I first heard the words “you have Crohn’s disease” I thought my life was over and that I’d be stuck in bed and feeling sick for the rest of my life.

If I could go back in time, I’d give my 15-year-old self a big hug and tell her that everything is going to be okay– things get better and you are way more resilient than you may think. My struggles inspired me to start an Instagram page as a way of showing others what it’s like to live with IBD, as well as to connect with others also suffering from a chronic illness. It can be a very isolating journey and I think it’s important that others, especially those who are younger, know that they don’t need to go through it alone. There are people out there who know what it feels like and to whom they can relate.

 As a way to deal with my illnesses, I have started running. I aim to complete a half marathon in September. Since my diagnosis, I have traveled locally and internationally and I’ve had an amazing time. I am a big foodie, so I love cooking at home or trying new foods and restaurants around Cape Town. I have a newfound appreciation for being able to eat delicious foods since it’s been something my Crohn’s tends to get in the way of. While things might be a little more challenging for me now and I sometimes take longer to achieve my goals than those around me, I think it’s important to highlight that these goals aren’t always out of reach. 

My illnesses have brought me a considerable amount of pain (both mentally and physically) and it is not something I’d wish on anyone. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t wake up every day wishing that I wasn’t ill, but I cannot change the cards that I have been dealt – all I can do is choose how to play them.

Although bowel disease is becoming more prominent and widely spoken about, the symptoms surrounding IBD remain very taboo.

Over the years, I have become very open and comfortable speaking about the not-so-glamorous aspects of IBD, and it’s made a massive difference with regard to sharing my symptoms with my doctors and accepting my illness.

Through my Instagram page, I’ve been able to share my story and chat with so many amazing people from all over the world– I have even had the privilege of meeting a few of them in person. 

Since my Crohn’s diagnosis in 2014, I have also been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and colon motility issues. But, I am determined not to let these issues stop me from living my life and achieving my goals. In 2020, I earned a BA in Psychology and Communications with distinction. Last year, I received my BA Honours in Psychology degree with distinction– I even completed my thesis on the psychological impact of IBD. 


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Global Autoimmune Institute Mini LogoThe views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Global Autoimmune Institute. The experiences and health outcomes described in this article are unique to the author and do not serve as medical advice.

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