As World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day is recognised, Huddersfield student Liam Seacombe, 21, describes how a challenging diagnosis of Crohn's Disease has affected him - and how he sees his future.
"It was 2013 when I received the diagnosis of Crohn’s coupled with Colitis. I was 17 and had just finished high school.
"Two friends and I decided to go on a holiday to relax after the stressful exam period.
"But over the week I had crippling stomach pains, fatigue and innumerable trips to the bathroom. I put it down to drinking the water or eating something that didn’t agree with me.
"On the plane home I was in so much pain I thought I’d pass out, but I was embarrassed to tell my friends. A few weeks later, a family member told me they were shocked at how much weight I'd lost, so I plucked up the courage to visit the doctor, who didn't examine me, and diagnosed haemorrhoids - wrongly.
"The night before my GCSE results I went out for a meal - but ended up in A&E writhing in pain, being sick and bleeding, which scared me - but my doctor wrote to me and told me I’d wrongly attended A&E, and if I did so again with the symptoms I presented I could face being fined.
"I then changed my doctor and was transferred to a consultant at a gastroenterology department, who diagnosed Crohn’s Disease.
What is Crohn's disease?
"Anyone can get Crohn’s disease. Its cause isn't known, and while it's most likely to strike young adults between 15-30, it can also appear in young children, middle-aged and elderly people.
"Crohn's causes the entire lining of my digestive system to be covered in painful ulcerated tissue that becomes inflamed as food passes by, causing extreme stomach cramps and diarrhoea that can last from several hours to years.
"But IBD is invisible to others as most of the symptoms affect the inside of the body.
"I’ve suffered with fatigue for a while, which is not the same as just feeling tired. It fogs your mind and body - you’re urging your body to get up and go but it doesn’t cooperate.
"Mental illness and IBD come hand-in-hand. Depression and anxiety have plagued me as I’ve struggled throughout my IBD journey.
"I can’t plan very far in advance as I don’t know how I’ll feel. I can feel completely fine but start feeling unwell through the day, which can negatively effect my social life and university studies, though I try not to let this put a stop to anything I want to do in life.
"My weight fluctuates which can lead to people congratulating me on losing unintended weight. I'm 6ft tall and my lowest recorded weight has been 8st - at the minute I’m a comfortable 12st.
What's the treatment?
"After I was diagnosed I was transferred to Salford Royal Hospital where I had MRI scans, endoscopies and colonoscopies to determine how widespread my Crohn’s was.
"Currently I am on medication called the Biological Infusion Infliximab. Every six weeks I have a drug pumped into my system which slows and reduces my immune system to stop it from attacking itself, as this can lead to serious infections and illnesses that my body can’t fight off.
What should non-sufferers know about the condition?
"I’d really like people to understand the difference between IBD and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. People sometimes say, 'I know how you feel, I have IBS sometimes'. The two are very different.
"People should understand it isn’t an excuse to get out of things I don’t want to do. Sufferers are very likely to come across someone art work that doesn’t understand. It may be annoying for your manager if you’re unable to turn in, but your health is really important and only you know how far you can push your body, so don’t let people like this get to you.
"I have big dreams of becoming a knitwear designer as I study textile design at the University of Huddersfield, who have been very understanding of my illness as I’ve had spells of ill health throughout the two years that I’ve studied there. Unfortunately, I have had to suspend my second year studies due to Crohn’s, but I’m determined to complete my degree.
"I’ve accepted that it’s going to be at my own pace which is difficult, but my condition is not an obstacle, it's a part of me that I’ve adapted to manage.
What's good advice for people who have just been diagnosed?
"I know it's pretty cliched, but it does get better.
"Finding the right treatment takes time and effort, but noticing trigger foods is key.
"Frequent contact with your doctors or consultants is also advised. Just because you're used to a certain symptom doesn’t mean it should be ignored, and keeping an IBD notebook as a food diary and symptom recorder is crucial if you’re like me and forget everything when you’re in front of the professionals.
"There are many social media support groups, so you don’t feel alone. Everyone has a story to tell and it's amazing how much better you feel knowing you aren’t the only one going through this.
"Becoming a member of Crohn’s and Colitis UK can help. They're a charity devoted to supplying information, as well as providing you with a toilet access card that should grant you the ability to access any bathroom if needs be.
"Home comforts are crucial for when you’re having a flare-up. I find things like hot water bottles, hot baths, meditating and drinking lots of water can help me through a bad time.
"If you have persistent or consistent diarrhoea or abdominal cramps you should see your doctor.
"I think it's important for people who want to go to university to discuss their condition before they get there, ask the university whether they have procedures set in place to accommodate your situation, and see if they are willing to adapt and help you out.
"The outlook for you depends on how severe your IBD is and what complications you have, because although Crohn’s disease is deemed both serious and chronic, it is usually not fatal.
"I’m hopeful that one day a cure may be found."