It takes two: twin sisters living with Crohn’s disease
On International Women’s Day, we wanted to share the story of two incredibly strong women we know, twin sisters Jami and Jade Poole.
Both Jami and Jade were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after they started experiencing the symptoms of the chronic illness – abdominal pain, frequent and urgent washroom trips, unintended weight loss – in university.
“Four years of university, four years of chronic pain,” says Jami. “Every doctor said it was just our change in lifestyle and eating habits at university. We had grown up eating healthy homemade food and been competitive athletes until that point, and then all of a sudden we were the ones being punished. We couldn't understand why.”
After Jami and Jade graduated university, their mother pushed for more testing to determine what was causing her daughters so much distress.
“Doctors have a hard time disagreeing with my mother after the number of times she's been right in her lifetime, which is always,” says Jami.
The tests eventually led to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease for the twin sisters. They began medication to get the disease under control, but Jami would end up facing a severe reaction.
“I developed a serious rash from head to toe. I looked like a burn victim. I lost my hair, I couldn't wear any clothing that touched my skin. My mother insisted my sister stop taking the drug as soon as I reacted because of our past similarities in intolerances,” says Jami.
In early 2015, Jami’s condition worsened. She spent months in hospital trying different treatments and different diets, but nothing was helping. By the time November rolled around, she found herself on the operating table for emergency surgery to remove her colon. Several more surgeries followed, including the removal of her rectum, and Jami now lives with a permanent ileostomy.
“I often think why me? Why did my disease progress to this stage, yet my sister's hasn't? Then I have to give my head a shake. My sister was by my side every step of the way. She took months off of work. She became my home nurse. I will be eternally grateful to her for this. I often say there was a reason I got a twin sister, and that's because there was no way I'd have made it to where I am today without her,” says Jami.
Witnessing Jami’s struggle was understandably hard on Jade too. But Jade is proud of how far her twin sister has come. Jade comes to support group meetings with Jami, is the first to offer a hand if Jami has an accident, and reminds her sister that her ostomy bag has made no difference to who she is as a person.
“I wouldn't trade being the guinea pig in this entire situation because I have learned more than I could ever imagine about the true definition of family and what it's like to give everything to someone unconditionally,” Jami says.
Through all the struggles, Jami remains grateful for the support she’s received. Her family has never left her side, she met an ostomy mentor while in hospital, and she’s now taking part in the things she feared she wouldn’t have the chance to again: vacations, camping, sports, and full-time work.
“The truth is, my story could happen to anyone, including my sister,” says Jami. “I can only hope that having her see me as happy and capable as I am today will help her get through any hardships life hands her.”