'When you're having a bad day you're just existing': The daily struggle of living with Crohn's disease

Rachel opens up about living with Crohn's disease

A Bridgend woman with Crohn's disease has spoken out about the challenges of living with the debilitating, and often poorly understood, condition.

Rachel Owen, 44, is one of over 24,000 people in Wales living with Crohn's disease or Colitis.

Both are known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and can leave sufferers struggling with severe pain and diarrhoea.

''A bad day living with Crohn's is pretty horrific,'' Rachel said.

''It means you probably haven't slept because you've been literally up and down countless times with diarrhoea and chronic pain.

''You're starting your day feeling exhausted.

''The best way I can describe it when you're having a bad day is you're just existing.''

Rachel has had 5 major operations because of the condition Credit: Rachel Owen

Rachel has been living with the lifelong condition for nearly 40 years after she was diagnosed at the age of 7. Since then she has had five major operations for the condition, including a colostomy.

Her condition is well managed, but the effects of Crohn's has a massive impact on her life.

She said: ''The uncertainty it brings is enormous - will I feel well enough to fulfil plans I've made?

''Are my friends going to be annoyed if I bail on them at the last minute because I'm too tired?

''When I go out, I'm constantly thinking about where the nearest toilet is which is exhausting in itself.''

The challenges faced by Rachel and thousands like her are something which are not widely understood by the public, according to a recent survey by charity Crohn's & Colitis UK.

They found 79% of sufferers felt the public had little to no understanding of IBD.

Rachel said: ''I'd really like to have more awareness about Crohn's and Colitis so that I don't have to explain myself to everybody that I meet what the condition is.''

What are Crohn's disease and Colitis?

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system. It is one of two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the other being Colitis.

The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are:

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Sometimes mucus, pus or blood is mixed with the diarrhoea

  • Tiredness and fatigue

  • Feeling generally unwell

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Anaemia (a reduced level of red blood cells)

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and people with the conditions can have periods of few or no symptoms (known as remission) and periods where symptoms worsen (known as 'flare-ups').


Ulcerative Colitis causes inflammation and ulcers of the inner lining of the colon and rectum (the large bowel).

Symptoms of Colitis include:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Cramping pains in the abdomen

  • Tiredness and fatigue

  • Felling generally unwell

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Anaemia

Some people with Colitis may never have more than mild and infrequent symptoms of diarrhoea and pain, so the illness may not affect their lives very much. Other people have continuous and severe symptoms in spite of medical treatment, and have to adapt their lifestyle considerably.