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Living With Ulcerative Colitis Challenges Me as a Parent

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Brett Gaul - Blogs
By Brett GaulAugust 16, 2021

Dealing with a chronic illness like ulcerative colitis is challenging for patients in various ways, and one of those ways is how patients parent. I am grateful that I have a wife and three children to lean on for support, but I’m also acutely aware of the ways my illness has affected my parenting.

When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, my children were 10, 6, and 2. A couple of months after my diagnosis but before my condition was under control with a biologic, I was hospitalized twice. During that time, my wife was the primary parent as I was 90 miles away from home.

Although this was a stressful time for my family, the help we received from our extended family -- particularly my mother who brought me to the hospital so that my wife could stay home with our children -- made our lives easier.

Post-hospitalization, when I was struggling to control my condition at home, my parenting was still affected as the corticosteroid I was prescribed to decrease the inflammation in my colon made me moody and irritable. As such, I was more susceptible to feeling annoyed and frustrated by my children’s behavior, which is not a recipe for great parenting. It was disappointing not to be my best self.

Fortunately, after I responded positively to an intravenous biologic, I was able to taper off of that corticosteroid and began to feel more like my old self. However, being prescribed that biologic presented a new parenting difficulty: being gone for much of the day on treatment days. Once again, this meant my wife had to assume primary parenting responsibilities on those days.

Although I received that particular biologic only once every 8 weeks, for insurance reasons, it was easier to get the treatment at a hospital 90 miles away rather than the primary care facility in my hometown. While driving so far to receive treatment made things easier financially, it also required spending about 7 hours away from home. On treatment days, this meant my wife was responsible for transporting our kids to any after-school activities.

Post-treatment, I often didn’t have much of an appetite. Our family usually eats together every evening, but on treatment days I would often skip that meal or eat very little. When I was struggling to control my condition before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I would also frequently skip meals, eat very little, or eat something blander than the delicious meal my wife prepared.

Another way treatment affects my parenting is that I always have to be mindful of future treatment days when planning family activities and trips. Can we do that activity or take that trip then, or do I have a treatment?

Having ulcerative colitis has definitely increased the difficulty of parenting at times, but I’m fortunate to have a loving and understanding wife who takes on the role of primary parent when necessary. Working around my schedule can be annoying, but it’s a small price to pay for treatment that allows me to keep my colon.



Photo Credit: Kentaroo Tryman / Maskot via Getty Images

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About the Author
Brett Gaul

Brett Gaul has lived with ulcerative colitis since 2016. A philosophy professor, Gaul enjoys sharing his passion for philosophy and helping students live more meaningful and successful lives. When he’s not having interesting dinner conversations with his history professor wife and three children, he likes reading, running, and rooting for Minnesota sports teams.

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