The "IBD & Ostomy Awareness Ribbon"
isn't just another pretty ribbon adding bling to blazers for the 1.4 million.
Americans living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and the estimated three-quarters of a million Americans living with an ostomy due to colorectal, bladder cancer, IBD, or birth defects.
The Ribbon was created by Lois Fink and Barb Wodzin, who have each had challenges with Crohn's disease, and is now a project of Get Your Guts in Gear, Inc. From the beginning, this gutsy Ribbon has done more than look stylish: it addresses the negative perceptions surrounding IBD and ostomy surgery. The design and color combination - - a rich, dark brown color with cream colored lettering and a small red crystal, representing an ostomy - - jump start dialogue that leads to awareness, acceptance, education, and empowerment.
With a website and social media presence via Facebook, the Ribbon has a dedicated following and has already traveled throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, Malta, and England! Individuals like Mike McCready, lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, support the Ribbon, as well as health care providers who serve the IBD and ostomy patient population. The Canadian CCFA's Youth Organization loves the Ribbon and featured Lois on their blog, the Gutsy Generation, as an inspirational woman making a difference. The Ribbon has been featured in two national magazines as well as print, television, and radio in the Seattle area. This past June, the Ribbon project was exhibited at the
WOCN Society's 44th Annual Conference in Charlotte, NC where, in the words of one exhibitor, the Ribbon "went like hotcakes!"
The Ribbon's goal is two-fold. In addition to educating and empowering the IBD and ostomy communities, we strive to reverse the negative perception of having a bowel disease or an ostomy. "IBD and ostomy surgery have been surrounded by shame, silence, and embarrassment for too long, and it is time to allow us to come out of the bathroom and into the living room to talk freely and openly about what we have gone through," said Fink.
The Ribbon's goals line up squarely with those of Get Your Guts in Gear, Inc. (GYGIG)
is an independent, national not-for-profit organization that empowers and supports people affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease and ostomy surgery, primarily through multi-day cycling events (visit http://igotguts.org/
). "We are excited about how much Lois and Barb have already achieved with the Ribbon," said Gary Beckman, GYGIG's President. "Lois has been one of our foremost volunteers for many years, and we are thrilled that she and Barb have formally partnered with GYGIG."
The Ribbon also raises awareness about the IBD Quilt Project (IQP)
, a non profit organization that generates public awareness for Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, and ostomy surgery. Crafted by and for the IBD community, as the quilt panels tour the United States and beyond, they provide an outlet to express the experience of living with these chronic diseases, thus educating and raising awareness (visit www.ibdquilt.org
Lois Fink, who lives in Lynnwood, Wash., had symptoms of Crohn's disease from age 10. Misdiagnosed by numerous physicians as "nervous," she underwent emergency appendectomy surgery in high school. She woke up to the diagnosis of Crohn's disease, and weighed 62 pounds. Despite aggressive steroid therapy, a restrictive diet, and more surgery, the disease ravaged Lois' colon and rectum over the next 17 years. In 1986, she made the decision to have her diseased colon and rectum removed, resulting in a permanent ileostomy. Today, Lois leads an active lifestyle, and wishes she'd consented to ostomy surgery sooner. "Sadly, there are many fears surrounding this surgery, which are often made worse by the perceptions fostered in the media. Because of these fears, some people would rather die than live a full, active life with an ostomy."
Barb Wodzin, from Seattle, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1997 after six months of tests. Exhausted from hours spent in the bathroom with persistent diarrhea, Barb was forced to take a leave of absence from her job. It took a full year of treatment before she began to feel "normal" again and see her symptoms begin to lessen. "IBD support groups were a huge help," she says. "It was so great to meet people who understood the pain and embarrassment of this disease. The awareness Ribbon will help spread the word and gets people talking." Today Barb volunteers with various advocacy projects, lives an active life, and her disease is in remission.To order the IBD & Ostomy Awareness Ribbon, visit: http://igotguts.org/ibdribbon/
donation is $5).