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It’s never too late to get involved: Darrah’s advice on living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Our story

Meet Darrah Horobetz, who lives with Crohn’s disease. She is a past recipient of the AbbVie IBD Scholarship, and currently the Development Coordinator for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada in Manitoba.

Diagnosis and the early days

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2007, when I was 13 years old. Before that, I remember having symptoms for seven or eight months, and the doctors didn’t know what was happening. They had trouble diagnosing me because I didn’t have the typical symptoms. I had low grade fevers and no energy. I lost a lot of weight.

When the diagnosis finally came, we were all surprised. My mom thought Crohn’s was an older person’s disease – only later did we learn that children and young people are often diagnosed.

Growing up, I found that Crohn’s got in the way of things. It got in the way of sports and life in general. My mom and I would go to the educational programs to learn more about the disease. 

Connecting with the community

From the very beginning, my mom tried to nudge me to get involved in the community. But I wasn’t ready, so I didn’t start volunteering at first, and I didn’t even talk about the disease for about seven years. 

But in 2014, I did get involved as a volunteer with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and this led me to find my passion. I fell in love with the organization, the community, and meeting people who are struggling with the disease.

As a volunteer, I became my local Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Chapter President and Chair of the Winnipeg Gutsy Walk, which is Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s largest national fundraiser that happens every June.

Higher education and a scholarship

Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, but in 11th grade I decided that wasn’t the right path for me. I started exploring different classes in university and became interested in studying Conflict Resolution and Human Rights.

I applied for the AbbVie IBD Scholarship two times and was a recipient in 2016. Receiving the scholarship, which covered almost a full year of my tuition, was amazing. I had been working a full-time job in addition to going to school, and the scholarship allowed me to take a step back from my job and work a lot less. This helped lower my stress levels and spend more time focusing on my courses. I even had more time to sleep, and this was a huge help for my overall health.

In 2018, I graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a Bachelor of Arts in Conflict Resolution Studies. One important lesson that I took away from my studies was that there is conflict everywhere, and it comes in all sizes – big and small. There are conflicts around the world, but also conflicts with family or within yourself. It’s important to understand what your conflict style is so that you are best prepared to manage any conflicts you face.

Working at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

In May 2019, I joined Crohn’s and Colitis Canada as the Gutsy Walk Coordinator for Manitoba and transitioned to being the Development Coordinator for Manitoba in July 2019. I kind of do everything – fundraising, Chapter activities, local education programs, disease awareness and advocacy. I’m also the main point of contact for all the volunteers in the province. I love that I have this amazing opportunity to work for an organization that I care so deeply about.

Reassurances for her younger self

If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self when I was diagnosed, I would tell myself that everything will be ok! Crohn’s disease does not define me; it’s not my whole identity. It’s just a part of my identity.

What has helped me more than anything to get through things is my family. My mom is my best friend.  She lets me have my bad days, but then she helps motivate me through it. It’s extremely important to be able to rely on the people you have in your life.

Darrah’s advice to others living with IBD

It’s never too late to get involved and to meet people. If you have Crohn’s or any other illness, community is a good thing. It’s nice to have those people who can understand what you’re going through, even though you might be going through different things.

Also, it’s ok to have your good and bad days. It’s ok not to be ok all the time. Take those days and don’t get off the couch. Listening to your body is important. If I’m going too hard, I may have to slow down. I may need to take a day to prioritize my health

** Darrah’s story may not be representative of the general population.

For more information about the AbbVie IBD Scholarship, please visit