Now 25, Ashley Clark was just 19 when her life changed forever.

“Six years ago, I was having a lot of bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, things like that…  I almost lost my life to this disease and spent over two months in the hospital.”

Clark’s diagnosis was Crohn’s disease.  Chronic and incurable, Crohn’s and Colitis prevent the body from digesting and absorbing food. Officials say 270,000 Canadians live with these inflammatory bowel diseases, including Perry Monych’s daughter Heather.

“She’s had 13 surgeries all to do with this disease. When my daughter was really ill, she went from 105 to 67 pounds,” says Monych.

“It’s such an awful disease, and because they go to the washroom so frequently, their colon, or intestine, doesn’t absorb a lot of nutrients.   You and I might go to the washroom a couple of times a day – for a bowel movement – someone with this disease might go eight, 10, 12 times a day.   And when they need to go, they need to go!”

Which is why, in 2017, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada created the GoHere Washroom Access Program.

“Businesses can register on our website at www.crohnsandcolitis.ca/gohere. ” says Jason Singh from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, in Toronto.

“We mail a decal to them, so they can put that decal up on their storefront.  It signals to people living with incontinence that they can stop in, no questions asked” says Singh.

In 2017, Monych’s daughter was honourary chair of the Gutsy Walk, a fundraiser for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.  This year, Ashley Clark has accepted that role, bravely going public with her story.

“The people who do go public are the people who I turn to during my darkest times with this disease,” says Clark. “So I think that’s a motivator for me to be able to give that to other people as well.”

You can support the Gutsy Walk on Sunday June 2nd in Victoria and Nanaimo.

“There’ll be over 60 walks across Canada and it’s very important to support those who are living with Crohn’s and Colitis,” says Singh.

Veronica Cooper