I Don’t Remember How to be Sick

I finally decided to go to the doctor.

After my mom called me out for my blog post last week, after my boyfriend bugged me enough, and after being on clear fluids and having pain for 3 weeks, it was time.

Yesterday afternoon, I emailed my GI doc’s receptionist at Mt. Sinai hospital in Toronto, detailing my symptoms – some of which I have never had before. Early this morning, she called and told me that the doc could fit me in. This doctor barely has time for anyone and he was fitting me in.

This must not be good.

I made it to my appointment today, sat down and went over my symptoms with my doctor. He hummed and hawed, asked me some questions, and poked at my stomach – the usual. The unusual part, however, was that he had no idea what was wrong with me.

In fact, he wasn’t even sure if my symptoms were related to my Crohn’s Disease or my ostomy. Maybe the gallbladder? Maybe the pancreas? Maybe a stricture or maybe just some scar tissue. Who knows! The only way to find out, he said, was to schedule me for some tests and test out a med.

I was sent across the hall to get my blood drawn, downstairs to fill a prescription, then back up to the 5th floor to try on some hospital gowns for my xray photoshoot.

After an hour and a half of running around the hospital, I left, and started to walk home.

It was cold out, but sunny, so I put on both my jacket hood and my big sunglasses.

And I walked.

I kept walking.

Mind blank.

Walked some more.

My mind still blank.

I walked by a pharmacy.

Without even knowing it, I walked through the door.

I didn’t need anything.

I was drawn to the candy section. The only area that had food I could eat.

I circled 2 aisles.

I still didn’t need anything.

Mind still blank

I stopped on my second time around and stared at some candy. I lifted it off the shelf and read the ingredients.

I didn’t need it.

I turned and started to walk around the rest of the store.

And then my eyes started to well.

Still in my sunglasses, so the lady across from me in the store at the cash register couldn’t see, tears made my vision blurry, and a lump in my throat formed.

I didn’t want to eat anymore stupid candy.

I wanted a real meal. Something so simple. Something I haven’t had in 3 weeks.

Lump getting bigger, I walked out of the store, and continued walking home.

My mind, no longer blank, now racing, fuelled my walk home – how could the doctor not know what was wrong with me? How could I not know what was wrong with me? What if I need to be on medication again? What if I have to go back to the hospital? What if I need surgery? What am I supposed to do? Am I strong enough to handle whatever is coming my way? Will I have to stop working? What about my boyfriend? Would I still have the energy to continue working on all the extra things I’m working on? Could I spend weeks in a bed again? Could I handle people poking and prodding me? What about the pain that comes with tests? What if the pain gets worse?

And so on, and so on..

And then, my mind stopped on one last thought -

I don’t even remember how to be sick.

The last time I was really, really sick, I was 13 years old.

Whether it was because I was too young to understand how sick I was, or if I just didn’t have anything to lose, the thought of being sick was never that frightening.

I remember that I could just accept the fact that I was living in the hospital. I remember being ok with missing out on holidays and vacations. I remember accepting that I was doing school work from a bed and skipping after school activities with my classmates. I remember just laying back while doctors and nurses poked, pinched, sliced and diced me. I remember being able to handle the pain. I remember it all just being ok.

Or maybe it was all the drugs. Most of what I remember experiencing is clouded in a haze of drugs.

But what I do remember in that haze is that I just knew how to be sick.

What about now? I’m 25 years old and very aware of what could happen and what might happen and how much of an impact it would make on the wonderful life I’ve built.

I don’t remember how I did it.

Maybe it’s the fear of not knowing. Maybe it’s because this is the second time in 2 years. Maybe it’s because I have so much more to lose.

Whatever it may be, at this point, I can’t really fathom what’s coming and what I’m going to do about it.

The only thing I can do is make light of the situation and hope for the best.

 

Can someone say sexy hospital wear? Sigh. #crohns #colitis #ostomy #ibd #hospital

A photo posted by Jess Grossman (@jessgrossman) on

But You Don’t Look Disabled

A few months ago, I wrote about how I had applied for the Canadian Disability Tax Credit here in Canada, which, when approved, comes with some tax benefits. If you remember, I had quite a time trying to get approved, but, eventually, after going through the process of re-applying, rewriting applications, bugging my GI doc to fill out some extra forms, I was finally granted disability status in Canada.

Yes. In Canada, I am considered disabled.

And yes, I know I don’t look it.

 

fabulous

According to the Canadian Government’s definition of disabled, I do, in fact, fall under that category. My ostomy makes being alive very different and more complex than non-disabled people. Though I’ve had it for almost 12 years and it is part of who I am, it still has its ways of being a pain. The extra time, cost, and complexity of my ostomy qualifies me as being disabled.

And it doesn’t matter that I don’t look it.

One of the benefits of having the tax credit is that I am able to open up a special savings account. As everything is when it comes to government, it’s a process to get it set up and comes with many stipulations and rules. Before I set up this savings account, I wanted to do my research, so, I went from bank to bank, talking to their employees, asking the questions I needed answered.

And from bank to bank, I would get the exact same thing:

“Hi, I’d like to talk to someone about opening an RDSP here at your bank.” I would ask.

“Ok, I can find someone for you to speak with. Who did you say this is for, again?” They would say.

“It’s for me.”

“A Registered Disability Savings Plan is for you.”

“Yes.”

“You know you have to be approved for it, right?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been approved?”

“Yes.”

confused

“…”

“Ok… let me just get someone for you…”

And off they’d go, walking a few steps, then looking back to get a good look at me in my skinny jeans and high heals, and wondering if I was just some idiot.

Eventually, I found the bank I wanted to open the account with (not from the help I was getting, but from the investments…) and I went to set it up.

I went to the teller, and said the same thing I did time and time again – I wanted to open an RDSP. After witnessing another round of confusion and hesitation, I was eventually taken to an employee who could set it up. It was only after a quick introduction that it went straight into the usual:

“This RDSP is for.. you?” he asked.

“Yes.” I responded.

“Disability Saving Plans, right?”

“Yes.”

“With a D.”

“Yes. I’ve been approved for it. I know how much money I can put in. I know the rules about taking money out. I just need someone to set it up for me.”

“You seem like you know a lot more about this than I do.”

“Well, I’m not mentality disabled!”

eye roll

Eventually, I started giggling out of frustration and exhaustion and just wanting to have the whole thing finally done with. The banker, recognizing that I was laughing at my own inappropriate joke, relaxed into the conversation and we were finally able to get it done.

Finally.

Not a single part of me was surprised by the confusion and questioning I experienced during this process. In fact, I expected it.

But why did I expect it? Why was it ok for me to accept that others couldn’t accept that I’m considered disabled? Why was it ok for the employees to question me in this way? Even further, why was it ok for them to speak to me like I have the IQ of a 5 year-old?

Well, you all already know that I’m not someone who cares about what anyone thinks of me. But what if I did? What if I was someone who could be offended by something like this? Would you have been?

For those of us with Crohn’s, Colitis, ostomies, and other chronic illnesses, we’ve heard it before:

“Well, you don’t look sick.”

No, on the outside, we don’t look sick. In fact, on the outside we look like strong, beautiful people.

Because we are.

But on the inside?

Some of us are in pain, some of us can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t move, can’t muster up the courage to hang out with friends.

On the inside, we’re not ok.

This is a picture of me that was taken last weekend:

Uncover Ostomy - Photography by Angela McConnell - But You Don't Look Disabled

Guess what?

I was having stomach pain when this picture was taken.

I have been on clear fluids and soft foods all week.

While I know my mother is going to read this and call me and yell at me for not telling her sooner - she saw me this past Friday and couldn’t tell.

Most of the time, you can’t tell.

And none of you would be able to tell if I hadn’t opened up about it.

This is why it is so important that all of us speak out.

It’s important that we teach. It’s important that we help the public understand that there is a lot more than what’s on the surface when it comes to our health. This is why I am always talking about what I have, to remind people that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

And you can too.

Whether you take time to explain it to a few family members, or a group of friends, or you open up about what you have to an entire auditorium of people -

We all have a reason to talk about what we have.

Without us speaking out, we will continue to be judged by our appearance and not understood by what we’re going through. We will continue to be scrutinized for having to leave school early, for missing a day of work, for not being able to wear a certain pair of pants, or for not being able to share a certain dish at a restaurant. Without educating those around us about what we’re going through, they’ll never learn.

Because they can’t see it for themselves.

Friends and followers - I have some exciting things coming in the next little while for Uncover Ostomy that I want all of you to be a part of. While I can’t divulge many of the details yet, there is a way you can be involved.

Over the next few weeks, you can educate. Over the next few weeks, I want to see you share.

I want to know why you talk about your #ostomy.

Tweet to @UncoverOstomy, post on our Facebook page, and use #ostomy on an Instagram post.

Tell me why you open up. Whether it is to just a few people or hundreds of people over, I want to see your reason. I want to know why you have joined our cause.

Soon, you’ll get see why….

No, we may not look disabled on the outside, but that’s only because the strength that comes from dealing with our diseases is what shines through most.

Life and Times with No Immune System

Last week was an insane crazy awesome week.

On Thursday night, my mom and I drove up to London Ontario so that, the next day, we could watch my little brother graduate from Ivey at Western University. That night, we arrived in the city around 9:30pm, went for celebratory drinks and dinner, then went back to our hotel and got ready for the next morning.

Friday was a whirlwind with an early morning wakeup for me to hit the hotel gym, followed by a quick shower and change to get to the graduation auditorium. Hours later, (hours….) my bro graduated, and we made our way to our favourite local lunch spot back when we both went to Western. After that, we headed over to my brother’s girlfriend’s parents’ house for a lovely celebratory dinner. In between all this, I was working on my phone, my computer, back on my phone, and so on and so on (there was no way I couldn’t work – I have an important job!)

After getting home after 9pm on Friday, we all woke up the next morning to attend the early morning ceremony for my little cousin’s Bat Mitzvah service! We sat and watched her read her part on the podium and followed it with a lovely luncheon full of family and friends. The next part of the festivities – something my now legal cousins and I had been waiting for, for 12 years, was about to happen - an epic party where we could enjoy each others company while being all fancied up and.. enjoying the open bar. I was so excited.

In between the luncheon and the party, my boyfriend and I went back home to change. That morning, I had been coughing a bit, but felt completely fine and ready to party. Except, well, during the morning, I mistakenly messed up 2 different names of people whom I knew exactly who they were… it caught me off guard and weirded me out a bit, but I figured I was just tired. Best way to get over being tired? Work out. So, the boyfriend and I hit the gym before we showered and put on our fancy clothes.

It wasn’t until getting out of the shower, however, that something didn’t feel right. I felt warm and cold at the same time and my breath seemed to be coming out hot. I’ve had this before, but didn’t want to believe it. Sure enough, after taking my temperature, I had a fever.

But the fever was low.

Low enough that I could still attend the party we had all been waiting to attend for 12 years.

Now, all of us with either Crohn’s, Colitis, Cancer, or any other auto-immune disease know the drill. We get sick, and we get sick often. Sometimes, we get sick so often that we barely have a month of health due to our lack of immune systems. This can be a huge hinderance on our social lives, so, over the years I’ve learned never to let that get in the way… at least, to try.

So I put on my party dress and headed to the event.

And I made sure to snap a pic before I knew I would turn into a ball of shivering sweat on the floor.

Party Dress

“You don’t even look sick!” (They always say that, right?)

Luckily, I managed to.. survive. At least, for most of the night. I spent a lot of time at our table, and managed to eat some of the delicious food presented to me. I also stood and applauded for some of the speeches and spoke to a number of family and friends (always making sure to warn them to stay back from me, lest they catch something!)

As the night wore on, I, unfortunately, started to feel my immune system losing its battle against whatever was attacking me. I started to feel fatigued, cold, and cranky. It already being 12am with most people filtered out, I felt the night had been somewhat of a win. Not a success in any means, but at least I had made it through.

I was disappointed, however, to not be able to dance, laugh, and enjoy the festivities as much as I would have being my 100% self…but when this is your normal, you learn to deal.

The drive home, though, was where it started to really kick in. I was shivering hard and not taking anyone’s crap (as my boyfriend and brother cracked jokes in the cab.) I just wanted to be in pajamas and asleep. I got home, threw my purse, coat, shoes, and dress on the floor, got into the comfiest clothes I own and crawled directly into bed. As I’m told, I passed out within seconds.

Now, in my many years of being sick with every thing you could possible imagine, I’ve been quite used to getting a fever, having it stick around for a day or two, sweating it out, and carrying on with my life the next day. Sunday was supposed to be that day. But Sunday came. And Sunday went. I mean, it wasn’t all that bad – a bit of sweating and aching here, but I still had an appetite and wasn’t coughing too much. Cool – I’ll be back to work tomorrow.

Hah.

Haaaah.

Monday morning, I wake up to a fever of 39.5 c (103f). I basically couldn’t open my eyes, move my limbs, or lift my head. I was a wreck. My mom was so worried (because obviously she was checking in on me), that she insisted I go to the emergency room in case I had pneumonia or something worse.

She literally had to carry me there.

I don’t remember being that unbelievably incapacitated since I was sick with Crohn’s.

This was insane.

After a number of hours in emerg, sitting, waiting, blood work, more waiting, chest xray, being poked, prodded… etc, I was discharged.

The diagnosis?

Dr: “Well, we don’t usually see it this early in the season… but we’re pretty sure you have the Influenza Virus.”

(Obviously I have something that they don’t usually see at this time because my body has very little capacity to fight it off…)

Me: (muttering in my armpit because I’m lying in a ball on a gurney and can’t lift my head) “What do I do?”

Dr: “Nothing, just drink water and sleep. You should be over it in 7-10 days.”

7 to 10 days?

For someone without an immune system, those days could be doubled. Multiplied.

I was just hit with a life sentence.

So here I am.

4 lines scratched on the dresser beside my bed, counting the days. About to scratch in one more.

Today is day 5 with an insane fever and inability to move, to think, to eat, and struggling to type this blog without major grammar and spelling mistakes in my hazy fog (I’m sorry if there are any.)

As much as I’m complaining, this has been an enormous wake-up call. As I mentioned above – I don’t remember ever being as close to this sick as back when I was struggling with my disease. I have had a pretty good run lately where, even when I have been sick, I could get over it in a reasonable amount of time(-ish.) I’ve been lucky.

Many of you, however, are dealing with what I am dealing with now, almost every day – if not every day. Not necessarily with the flu, but with the symptoms of your disease, or from other sicknesses you’ve picked up because your body can’t fight off the germs. You are struggling to walk, to move, to eat, to socialize, to work, and to enjoy life. I am in awe of you.

But you can’t let this stop you.

I went to that party, and even though I didn’t have the best time, I was there and with the people I loved. I’m also still working from home as much as I can because my team needs me and I need to be productive. And I am still writing this blog because I had to pay homage to all of you who deal with this all the time.

So, to my dearest immune system and those of all others:

While we are thankful that you exist and work in our bodies to fight off infection in some capaticity… could you please try a little harder?

Sincerely,

The girl and her friends who ain’t got time for this.

An Open Response to the Guy Who’s Upset He Can’t Date Me.

This past week, I received a message via the Uncover Ostomy contact form, in response to the lastest blog post about my Valentine’s Day festivities.

Well, more about who I chose to spend my Valentine’s Day with…

(I’ve bolded the aspects that stuck out, to me, so feel free to skip the rest.)

Dear Jess,
I hope this correspondence finds you well. I wanted to take a minute and share a couple of thoughts about your recent blog post, dated Feb 15th.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother to comment or quip about some stranger’s comings and goings, their life and their “business”…… Because it’s not any of my business, so ordinarily, i wouldn’t care enough to bother, like, what 4?
But reading that Feb 15th blog entry, I felt compelled otherwise….. and how did I stumble on the blog, one right mouse button click too many I suppose…….
Anyways, I just wanted to comment that I found your entry totally heart wrenching and disappointing. As a Jewish guy here in Toronto committed to courtship with Jewish women, I find it painful and frustrating to observe Jewish women who have totally excused themselves from embracing that same commitment, to endogamy. As a Jewish guy, I can’t court whomever. If I do, my offspring will cut off and my lineage severed. My Bubby can’t take solace in the fact that despite her grandchild’s interfaith relationship, the lineage will continue. Jewish Maternal lineage is not a loophole for Jewish women to say, ‘I’ll date whoever and it’s okay, i’ll still be Jewish and so will my kids’ etc. Apart from the sheer falsity of that thought (lol since when does a non-Jewish spouse teach their kids to sing ‘Ma’Nishtana’ on Passover?), the male half of your coreligionist (or co-traditionalist if you prefer) have no such loophole to abuse.
As a Jewish guy, it’s date whoever and sacrifice my lineage, period. And while some guys might be totally assimilated to the point where they don’t know about their Jewish identity, nor care, and thus ready to court whoever they suites their fancy…… for us Jewish guys who want to preserve our identity, we need to court inside the “community” (lol, funny notion), otherwise we face ostracism. No bris, no bat/bar mitzvah for my kids if I marry a ‘Miss French’s’. So we Jewish guys who are committed to endogamy for the sake of preserving our lineage, and note there is nothing racist in the principle of endogamy, sadly watch or female co-religionists (or, co-traditionalist) get involved with whichever guy tickles their fancy, leaving us men behind, either to remain perpetual bachelors or betray our lineage, by default forced forsake the perpetuation of a Jewish identity to the next generation. That’s why I found your post, heart wrenching.
Best of luck in all your career and philanthropic pursuits,
N

Ok, before I get into what I really want to say, let me give you a bit of context.

I was raised Jewish by a Jewish family.

I went to a private Jewish elementary/middle school, I had a bat-mitzvah, kept Kosher, went to synagogue on the important holidays, and I have been fully educated in all Jewish traditions, cultural norms, and history. I have been Jewish for the majority of my life. My dad’s side of the family is “reform,” where they celebrate the important holidays, attend synagogue on the most important days, and keep Kosher. My dad’s sister is actually an Orthodox Jew, and follows all Jewish traditions and rules to the letter. My mom’s side is much more “reform,” and mostly just use the Jewish holidays as a reason to get together for dinner. Besides my mother and her parents, everyone else on this side of my family has married outside of the Jewish faith, but that hasn’t stopped them from recognizing and observing some of the traditions.

My Jewish upbringing is why I was featured in this article, on ShalomLife’s “Top 20 Under 40″ list. It was a wonderful article that said some great things about this campaign. I want to, first and foremost, thank the publication for recognizing me and Uncover Ostomy.

It is this article, that I assume, is how the particular individual sent that email, came across this campaign. (I haven’t, however, determine exactly how he found out that my boyfriend isn’t Jewish.)

In case you were unsure, the point that this individual is trying to make is that, in the Jewish religion, children are determine to be Jewish based on their mother’s religion, so Jewish guys are forced to marry Jewish girls if they want to have Jewish kids. What has expressed here is his disappointment in my decision to date “whomever tickles my fancy,” (aka someone not Jewish) because I am then taking myself out of the group of potential wives for him, and his fellow Jewish brethren.

To that I say: I am offended.  

He’s pretty much implying that I have taken myself out of his potential dating pool, as if I was just waiting there to be chosen.

Ummmmm.

Excuse me.

I can pick whomever I damn choose. Sorry that you don’t have the opportunity to date me? Sorry I’ve picked someone who’s not Jewish, over you? Besides, not a single one of my past boyfriends have been Jewish.

Ok, so, at first, the “not dating Jewish guys” thing wasn’t something I did intentionally. In fact, there have been a number of Jewish guys I’ve wanted to date. Unfortunately, the Jewish boys whom I had grown-up with, and the other boys that I have since met, have never seen me as dating material. Hence, I’ve never really tried to date a Jewish guy.

I was deemed “unfit” for dating, it seems, back when I was battling my Crohn’s disease as a pre-teen. Not only was I isolated from growing up with the Jewish community because I was stuck in a hospital bed for 2 years, but I had become shy and awkward and didn’t fit in. It didn’t help that the side-effects of my medications made me look like a monster. Even after I had surgery, I didn’t know how to act in social situations and I was still overweight. I never meshed with that group, so I didn’t really bother.

It was around this time that I remember seriously thinking about the premise of Judaism, as a whole. It was during those long, lonely days that I sat, in pain, in the hospital thinking “why me?” and “what did I do to deserve this?” In school, I had learned to trust and believe in God, but during this ordeal, I couldn’t really understand why. These thoughts made me question what religion really was all about.

After surgery, however, I went back to my Jewish school and pushed those thoughts aside.

Eventually, I went on to a public highschool, where I was one of very few Jews, so I identified as such. It seemed to make sense to me, and I continued on through to university.

It wasn’t until my second year of university that my Jewish identity started to morph. I suppose it could have had to do with living outside of my Kosher household or even because I didn’t hang out with the Jewish community at my school.. which, after all, was comprised of all those kids that I had never meshed with in elementary school. Whatever it was, the previous thoughts of questioning religion that I had, had, back in my days of being sick, slowly started to creep in.

It was in second year that I had met a boy whom I liked, and we started dating. He wasn’t Jewish, but he was nice and treated me well. He was also the second boy I had been in a relationship with who wasn’t Jewish. It didn’t matter, though, because I knew I was still young and marriage would not be in the cards for a while.

Anyway, this boy and I dated for a few months into school and throughout the Christmas break. It was then that my boyfriend of the time invited me over to his family’s Christmas dinner. In response, I invited him to join me at my family’s equivalent Channukah celebration.

That is, until, my father said otherwise.

I’ll be clear and say that I adored my father, and always will…. but in this moment, everything I thought I believed, changed.

My father said I was not allowed to bring my non-Jewish boyfriend to Channukah dinner. 

He explained that he expected me to marry a Jewish boy so that I could have Jewish kids. He said that bringing this non-Jewish boy into the family for celebrations was not appropriate. He said that he knew this boy wasn’t long-term, but that I needed to start thinking about my future and how I was going to raise a family.

I remember looking at him, stunned, with my jaw brushing against the rough carpeted floor.

This was a man who had always, always, always taught my brother and I to be accepting of everyone. Sure, we went to a private Jewish school, but we also went to a public summer camp, public highschool, and we had non-Jewish family friends, whom we had shared both Christian and Jewish celebrations with. I had been raised to learn about all cultures and religions and to accept everyone for who they are.

And now, suddenly, inviting a non-Jewish person to a Jewish celebration was not allowed?

I reminded him of this. I reminded him of the values he taught me.

And then I didn’t speak to him for 3 days.

To me, religion was the least relevant factor in the person I would choose to spend my life with. Why would I ever want to turn down a guy simply because he wasn’t Jewish? What if I had found the most amazing person in the world, who treated me like gold, and who would do anything for me, but he wasn’t Jewish? I’d have to say “sorry, better luck next time”? Even if he totally respected the Jewish faith? Even he let me celebrate the holidays and share them with my kids? Would it be better for me to end up with someone who didn’t respect me, simply because they followed the same rules of faith?

It didn’t make sense.

If someone loved me and I loved them and we had a happy, healthy, respectful relationship, that was the only thing that mattered.

The views my father expressed made me seriously reconsider why I needed religion in my life at all.

Eventually, he apologized and explained that he knew I was right about the idea of acceptance. He did, however, make sure to mention that he still really, really wanted me to marry someone Jewish, to keep it in the family..  I said I would see where my life ended up. And that was that.

Sadly, less than a year later, my dad died from a rare blood disease at the young age of 46.

And with him, died my need for religion.

It was during his “Shiva” (the Jewish form of a Wake, and lasts a week), that I knew religion was no longer for me. Everywhere I looked, there was something religious. A symbol. A prayer. And my Ultra-Orthodox aunt telling me that his death was “God’s way.”

No it wasn’t.

He was dead, and no part of religion was going to bring him back.

Just like I had been sick and almost died, and the surgeons saved my life.

Just like how religion was not going to play a part in how much love would exist in the marriage I would eventually choose.

And this is where I stand. This is where my journey has taken me.

Journeys are unique. Everyone experiences a different life that contributes to an individual sets of beliefs. I’ve found this especially true while doing work for this campaign, as those who have had especially rough journeys either end up with a lack of faith, like me, or with one renewed.

And you know what? To each their own.

My personal journey has led me to a place where I identify as just being me, and where I identify with an overarching set of beliefs that I do not categorize with any religion. I believe in the tenants of being kind, being respectful, being generous, and being loving. I also believe that others have the right to believe in whatever they so choose.

I, as you all know, very much believe in acceptance for all.

So, as I wrap up this long winded post, I want to say that my own personal journey has led me away from religion, and I believe that it’s ok. I want to say that I also believe that while this may be where I ended up, others end up completely different, with newfound strong belief in a higher power. While those people believe in something different than what I believe in, to me, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that we are all happy in the beliefs that we have chosen.

My dad passed away over 4 years ago now, and it’ been that long since I’ve stopped identifying as Jewish. I still go to Jewish family events, I still enjoy the food, I still understand the traditions and cultures, and I even still catch myself saying things like “oy vey.” I was raised Jewish, and it will always be a part of me.

My current boyfriend isn’t Jewish. He also isn’t any other religion. He was raised in a family that believed in another faith, but, like me, identifies with being himself. He believes in the same tenants that I do, of being kind and respectful and loving and accepting, and acts that way towards me. It doesn’t matter if we celebrate Channukah or Christmas, or we do both because we get to spend time with our families. What matters is that we love each other and have a wonderful relationship based on important values.

To the guy who wrote me that email: I am not Jewish, nor do I plan on raising a Jewish family. I do, however, recognize my family history and tradition, and will ensure my future children recognize it. I will also ensure that my future kids understand the religions, cultures, and traditions of all other faiths in the world. I don’t believe in Judaism, nor do I believe in any other religion.

What I do believe in, is accepting others for who they are and that they are happy with what they choose to believe in.

Maybe you should too.

Who Needs Sleep When You Have Netflix?

I’ve recently discovered that the best time to have a Netflix marathon is at 1am in the morning.

I’ve discovered that instead of rolling around in bed, twiddling my thumbs, and thinking about how stressed I am, I can just watch countless episodes of TV shows on Netflix until I literally fall asleep on my computer.

Otherwise, I won’t fall asleep.

I think, if I didn’t have Netflix, or similar forms of entertainment at my fingertips, I could go more than 2 days without sleeping a wink.(If I really tried, I could probably go 3, but I’ve heard people start hallucinating at that point…)

I’ve been having a really hard time sleeping lately.

And it’s not because I’m sitting in the living room and too lazy to get up to go to bed (which, used to be my excuse for staying up all hours of the night…), because I get into bed, every night, as a reasonable time, thanks to my boyfriend. We’re usually all tucked in and ready to count Z’s at around 11pm. He has a full-time job, so he has a reason to get to bed before dawn.

Night after night, we turn out the lights, say “I love you,” and then in about 15 minutes, he’s snoring away while I’m lying there, staring at the ceiling, literally feeling the cogs spinning in my head.

Sometimes, I get up to go to the bathroom.

Other times, I try and close my eyes to meditate.

I even try to count sheep.

Unfortunately, neither the quick trip to the bathroom, the meditation, nor the counting sheep can stop my brain from thinking about what’s got me extremely stressed.

My job hunt. I’m looking for a new job.

If you haven’t seen my endless tweets about how ridiculous the job market is, how annoying job hunting can be, or how I’m just ready to be hired, you may not have known. But, if you have seen them – I’m sorry.

Job hunting is hard. Between working at my current job, writing constant cover letter drafts, filling out applications, doing phone interviews, and showing up for in-person interviews… it’s crazy.

And I don’t know when this started to be a thing, but I have job, after job, after job asking me to do assignments for them! Like, they’re asking me to do work that they would be hiring someone to do.. but getting myself, and others, to do it for free. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I get the concept of it, where they want to see if I’m competent and what-not, but the type of work I’m being asked to do, and how much of it, is a little ridiculous. And, from what I’ve heard recently from a friend who just hired someone, the assignments are misleading – she hired someone who cannot do shit, despite completing the interview assignment properly.

It’s also insanely hard to get people to even take me seriously because of how young I am. If I’ve learned anything from my current job, it’s that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s all about what you know – and I know quite a lot, apparently. However, getting someone to take the time to even give me a chance to prove this, is turning out to be a difficult task.

Another huge concern of mine is the fact that stress contributes to Crohn’ disease flare-up… Well, stress contributes to a lot of health related issues, but in my case, Crohn’s is a huge concern. I haven’t had too much “tummy trouble” just yet, but if this continues, I may not remain as lucky.

Sigh.

I know I shouldn’t complain. I’m in a much better position than others that I know. I have good work experience, a great education, and lots of networking connections who are helping me out. Despite all this, I’m still extremely overwhelmed and severely lacking sleep.

While the boyfriend snores away, I find myself lying awake, wondering whether or not I’ll get a job I enjoy and whether I’ll get one that pays me enough to cover my bills.

And then I start to wonder if I’ll even get a job at all.

I wonder if I might become destitute.

Then I start picturing where I’ll have to live.

And then, I start wondering where I can find cardboard boxes big enough to use as a shelter for under the bridge I’ll inevitably end up calling home.

Without being able to stop, I begin to imagine my new friend Bob who used to be a successful investment banker who lost millions of dollars, was fired, and ended up under the same bridge, to which he now helps the other bums under the bridge with their investments of old beer bottles and pop can tabs to pay for the swimming lessons for his imaginary pet Lobster, Al.

And then somehow, I wake up the next morning.

Body half off the bed, drool coming down my mouth, and the blankets on the floor, I look up to see my boyfriend telling me it’s time to start the day.

Wearing his nicely fitted dress pants and his perfectly pressed button down shirt, he kisses me, still in my pjs and hair in a messy bun, goodbye, while he goes off to work hard at his great job.

I, on the other hand, move myself to the couch to continue my job hunt so that I won’t end up trading bottles to pay for those swimming lessons for Al.

Frequent Flyer Disease

Ahh Saturday. A day to sleep in, relax, and not do a damn thing. My favourite day.

A day I’ve hardly seen in the past few weeks.

And holy hell am I tired.

——–

I remember the days when I couldn’t wait for the weekends to hang out with friends, party, and stay up really late, and  travel – basically a few days without sleep. It was great.

Now, I can’t wait for Saturday so that I can stay in my pj’s till 1 in the afternoon.

For me, the past month and a bit has been full of traveling and very little sleep. From Chicago, to London, ON, to Ottawa, and NYC, I feel as if I haven’t stopped moving. I had a bit of time in between each of those trips which were mostly spent to go grocery shopping and clean (you know, adult things.)

Don’t get me wrong – I love traveling. I love going to new places and seeing new things and meeting new people.

Like, Chicago. I had never been before, and neither had my boyfriend, so we decided to make a trip there for a few days. We stayed with some friends, who graciously offered their place, and we had a great time. We did a lot of touring and I saw things I had never seen before (like the Bean!), went to a really fun museum (ugh, yes, I’, a nerd) and ate very, very well.

Only a few days after that trip, we went to London, ON so that I could speak on behalf of Uncover Ostomy at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Canada’s Education Symposium. Since my boyfriend had just moved to Toronto from London, we took the opportunity to spend the night before with a bunch of his friends before waking up early the next day for the event. Despite the lack of sleep, it was fun to hang out with his friends, and a pleasure to speak to such a great group of attendees. My brother even stopped by to support (since he lives there.)

Shortly after that trip, I headed to Ottawa, ON – another place I had never been – to speak about Uncover Ostomy at another CCFC Symposium. While I was only there for about 24 hours, I got a glimpse of the downtown nightlife and went out with a few volunteers from the event. Waking up early, once again, I made my way to the event and spoke to another amazing group of people.

Then, for what seemed like only a few days later, I headed off to NYC for a few days. It was great to visit the place I once lived to see some of my friends and even more exciting to meet one of my idols, Morgan Spurlock.

Unfortunately, my NYC trip wasn’t as fun as it could have been because I had come down with an infection. This was not surprising, as on my immediate return from Ottawa a few days before, I had been struck with a stomach virus. I clearly hadn’t recovered enough from that virus, as my body wasn’t able to fight off coming down with another sickness.

I think they call this Frequent Flyer Disease.

It’s known that when you have Crohn’s disease, and that when you’re missing a colon, your immune system is severely decreased. This is something I’ve been used to for most of my life and haven’t really had to deal with. I’ve been able to travel around the world, party, and barely sleep without any problems.

However, it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that as I get older, so is my body. And I guess I’m getting more and more susceptible to this “disease.”

Maybe it’s just being 24. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m not the spry 19 year old like I used to be. I mean, do other 24 year-olds get sick from lack of sleep? Anyone? Beuller?

Ugh, I doubt it.

Fortunately, as I notice the decreasing ability for me to fly somewhere new every weekend, I’m actually happy to not do it as much. I like waking up late, bumming around, and relaxing after a long week of work. I mean, it’s Saturday, at 1:30pm, and I’m still in my pj’s hanging out with my boyfriend – and I couldn’t be happier. 

I guess this is what maturing is all about.

While I’m still recovering from the infection I got in NYC, I am still very happy with the past few weeks. Sure, being sick sucks, but experiencing all the things I’ve been able to experience from traveling definitely outweighs the sick, and I’m not going to stop.

Crohn’s hasn’t stopped me before and it is certainly not going to stop me now.

I just need to figure out how to, you know, not die, in the process ;)

Happy weekend, everyone. Enjoy it.

Ridiculous – The Jess Grossman Story

Whenever I talk about my life as a whole – you know, the general biography of me – I usually describe it with one word:

Ridiculous

All of us, at one point, especially those who have dealt with Crohn’s, Colitis, Cancer, or whatever other hardships we’ve faced, we feel that our lives don’t make sense. The pain we’ve dealt with, the uncomfortable treatments we’ve been exposed to, and the changes we’ve experienced – looking back, it all seems so.. ridiculous.

For me, the ridiculous started when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 9 years old. Most of you already know my story, but for those who don’t, my disease got really bad when I was 11, and I was taken to the emergency room with a hemaglobin of 55 (for a normal kid my age at the time, it’s 120) because I was close to death. I couldn’t move or open my eyes, and I almost couldn’t breathe. Luckily, after 2 years of being in and out of the hospital, hovering just over the line of life and death, as the story goes, I made it out alive, thanks to ostomy surgery.

Now, you’d think for only having lived to the age of 13 that this would have been enough ridiculousness for anyone in a lifetime.

But of course, not for me.

Besides being a sufficiently awkward child from years of isolation in the hospital and being overweight from steroids, high school was pretty difficult. I was lucky enough to make it out with a few great friends, and somehow, a personality. 

Thanks to my newfound personality, I was hired by Abercrombie & Fitch - the most prejudice company in existence. Oh, except, I wasn’t hired because of my bubbly attitude, but because they thought I was Asian. They had a “minority quota” they needed to fill and they thought I was half. (For the record, I am not)

That’s where I met my first first boyfriend. Turns out this guy had been dating his girlfriend for a year, while he was dating me.

I obviously didn’t learn much about men, because after joining my sorority in my first year of university, I surrounded myself with a ton of assholes. One of which, kept trying to convince me to date him. I didn’t – and good thing too - because he was actually in a relationship with another girl. And, his ex-girlfriend (now a prominent woman in tech in Toronto, haaaa) and her sorority sisters would call me and harass me because I was hanging out with him.

Oh yeah, that girl he was actually dating? She was the stewardess on my empty flight from Vancouver to Toronto a few years later. Sufficiently awkward – especially when she asked me how I had been. We had never met in person. But she knew who I was.

Then my grandmother died. Which I guess isn’t too ridiculous, because she was older, and an avid smoker. Still sucked, though.

Anyway, I had gotten fed up with men, and decided the next best option was to date my best guy friend – who had been chasing me for 2 years. The beginning of our relationship was pretty much out of an 80′s movie (Read: Pretty in Pink, Andie and Duckie.) He did everything for me, from letting me cry on his shoulder because of other guys, to dragging me to the hospital when I had a cold. 

Just as we started dating, my dad died. From a rare blood disease. Yeah, a rare blood disease.

That, somehow, triggered my best friend turned boyfriend to turn into an absolute nutcase. He’d break up with me every 2 weeks because he “loved me too much” or because he “didn’t love me anymore,” then he would come to my window in the middle of the night and throw rocks at it to get my attention…just to cry on my shoulder and tell me he didn’t deserve me. When he wasn’t breaking up with me?  He was proposing to me. He did 3 times. 2 years of breaking up, getting back together, and angry drunken emails and texts later, I eventually dumped his ass and told him never to speak to me again when I found out he was talking to other girls.  Apparently, dating your best friend doesn’t really mean anything.

In the middle of those 2 years, I met another guy who, within the first few nights of knowing me, expressed his undying love. I was taken, so I couldn’t date him, but he was… well, let’s say, “on my hook.” Think, How I Met Your Mother:

Eventually, after I was done with my ex-boyfriend, we ended up dating, but only for 2 weeks. We stopped because a mutual friend of ours was extremely upset that we were, as she had always liked him. So we broke up. He was supposed to go to law school in Australia, anyway. However, a few months later, I ran into this guy at our mutual friend’s cottage. He expressed how he didn’t want to go to law school so he could be with me. And that was that.

We dated for an amazing few months before I moved to Manhattan for school. We stayed together long-distance and, somehow, made it through.

Surprise! While I was in Manhattan, I had to have 3 minor surgeries, you know, because of course my body needed to fail while in a country without universal healthcare.

I eventually made it back to Canada to move in with this boyfriend. It made sense at the time. Turns out, this boyfriend was not who I expected. In fact, he was a totally and completely different person (Read: an angry narcissist who treated me worse than the dirt under his feet.) I broke up with him 4 months later. 

To take my mind off of that whole situation, and to give me something else to do while living with my mother again, I started working on a startup business with a developer who was brilliantly talented. Unfortunately, after devoting all of my waking hours to the business, I found out that he was absolutely insane. He thought that me – a woman – was only meant to take his orders, be his puppet, and work as his servant. We had to end the working relationship and he wasn’t too happy about it… which, was clearly stated in the 2 weeks of  threatening and absolutely psychotic emails he sent that called me names and said that “the devil was going to get me.”

Eventually, life started to even itself out as I made my way to Jamaica for one of my best friends’ weddings, this past February.

And that’s where I met Jake Gyllenhaal.  

Kidding.

The lookalike’s name was Matt, and he was in the airport sitting a few rows down from my friends and I, while we all waited for our flight.

[Sidenote: I do this thing where I see if there are any interesting looking guys and see if they could possibly entertain me for the week of vacation. I wasn't sure if he was going to be staying at the same resort, but in the meantime, he was pretty to look at.]

Luckily, he was staying at the same resort. It turns out, as I learned when he approached me the first night there, that he was from London, ON (where I used to go to university, and where my brother and cousins still did.) Apparently, he also used to live with the older brother of a guy I went to high school with. I had a great time with him and his friends that week and was a little sad when the week came to a close. After all, what happens on vacation, stays on vacation, right?

Apparently, not. While we collected our luggage in the airport back in Canada, Matt asked for my number. Coincidentally, I had already planned to be in London that very weekend, to see my brother and cousins. And I thought he should know.

So I visited him that weekend.

And then I visited him again, shortly after.

And then he visited me.

And somehow, we ended up meeting up every weekend for 3 months. And it was wonderful.

But I knew, having done the long-distance thing before, it wasn’t something I wanted to do for very much longer. No matter how amazing Matt was – and amazing he really, really was.

But this was….Ridiculous. 

So one weekend, we’re at my friend’s cottage and he gets a call from an old roommate-friend of his.

He had bought a house. In Toronto. 2 blocks from me.

And he needed another roommate. 

Very long story, short…

This weekend, Matt moves to Toronto. 

—-

While most of what I call the “ridiculous” parts of my life have often made me sad, upset, lonely, and angry… this, by far, is making up for all of it.

The reason I went on this long-winded rant is to clearly illustrate that no matter how hopeless, how awful, how inconceivably ridiculous your life seems, it is important to remember that ridiculous has two sides. The really bad, and the really good.

You could be sitting in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you are going to make it through the next day. You could be looking at your changed body in the mirror, wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again. Or you could be thinking of people past and wondering how they ever treated you in that way. I know I did.

But I also now know that you just have to make it through one side to get to the other.

—-

Oh, yeah, that award I was supposed to Skype in to accept in NYC this past weekend? It would so happen that the internet went out in the North East at the same time I was supposed to do it. 

Ridiculous.

I was not only sad that I couldn’t make it into the city to accept in person, but I was even more upset that I could barely be a part of the event because of the failure of technology.

Until I looked over at Matt, who made a stupid joke, just to make me smile.

And suddenly, all that seemed ridiculous to me, didn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.

Jess & Matt

August is a Terrible Month

I’ve always hated August. It’s a terrible month.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I mean, Buzzfeed agrees with me.

We agree that August brings crazy hot temperatures.

Gigantic insects.

The end of freedom for kids everywhere.

And, for all of us, it marks the end of the best season: summer.

But for me, it marks much more than that.

For me, August marks the end of another year of my life, as my birthday quickly approaches within the first 3 days of September. It reminds me that another year of my life is ending, and that I’m probably not any wiser than I had been the year before.

August has recently begun to mark the time in my life where I made a terrible life mistake. I chose to believe that someone was the person I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, who I very sadly realized, never deserved me in the first place. August marks the time where I had to move out of our shared apartment.

(It was way less dramatic, I swear.)

Having moved out of the place I shared with my, now ex-boyfriend, I had to move back in with my mother into my childhood home.

Except, only for a few months, as this August she sold the place and moved out.

This month now also marks the time in my life where my childhood home disappeared.

But what August really marks for me, and will forever mark for me, is the loss of two very important people in my life.

The first loss I experienced in August of 2008, was my grandmother. She passed away on August 13th, 5 years ago.

She was an extremely important person in my life because she was the person who helped me discover my passion for acting.

Being one of the most respected actresses in Canada, having sat on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Acting Union, ACTRA, and starting a home for aged performers in Toronto (PAL), she was the person who brought me in to the world of performance.

At a very young age, she enrolled me into multiple acting classes, where she followed my talent. As I grew up, she mentored me and taught me the ins and outs of the industry. But my favourite memories I had with her were those times she would take me on set while she was filming (my favourite of which, being for the movie Beautiful Girlwhere I got to hang out with Fran Drescher!)

But most of you may know her from her famed role in Billy Madison, as the Lunch Lady:

My grandmother helped me find my passion in life, and because of that, she will always be a part of who I am.

But the person who has played one of the most pivotal roles in shaping who I am today, was the man I lost 4 years ago, on this day: My father.

For those of you who have been following me since I started this blog, or even over the past few years, you’ve already read about my dad. I talk about him often.

For those of you who don’t know the story of my my father, his fight with a rare blood disease called myelofibrosis, his search for a bone marrow match, and how his legacy was the catalyst for bone marrow drives in Canada, you can read about his story here. You can also read the blog I kept during the month of his treatment all the way up to his passing, here.

This has been the reason I’ve hated August as much as I do.

August reminds me of the worry. August reminds me of the stress. August reminds me of the sadness. And August reminds me of watching my father disappear, literally, before my eyes.

This year, however, August has been different.

Of course I miss him, and I’m sad, and I always will be… But things are starting to change.

They’re starting to blur.

When I first realized that details were starting to disappear, or blend together, I got very upset. I couldn’t believe that I had let myself forget some of the conversations my dad and I had had prior to his being admitted to the hospital. I was so mad at myself for not remembering some of the jokes he made to me in the hospital. And I couldn’t believe that the details of the few days we spent waiting for it to happen… have all started to merge into a faint memory.

At first, I was devastated. I was mad at myself. And I was mad at time.

That’s what time does. It blurs.

But this August, I began to realize something else.

Time was only blurring that horrible moment in my life.

The blurring of those horrible memories has begun to change the way I remember my father. Those awful times that have been so clear in my head these past 4 years, have slowly been replaced with old memories that had been pushed aside.

The memories that now fill my mind are the happy times my dad and I used to share, like when we used to huddle over his computer so he could teach me how to use a nifty new program he had just bought… Or the times he’d try to teach me math that I wasn’t quite getting.. Or the inappropriate jokes he would tell me (and to not tell my mother that he had). But most importantly, the memories of his support, help, and love during my sickness are what are coming back the most.

On this day, every year, I usually write a morbid piece. A piece riddled with sad memories, sad words, and sad feelings.

But this August is different.

Today, on this 30th day of August, I received the news that my latest flare of Crohn’s disease is gone.

While I had been struggling with the disease for the past few months and wishing more than anything that my dad was here to help me through it, hearing the news that I’ve beat it once more, on the anniversary of his death, couldn’t be better.

Maybe August isn’t so bad after all.

Sometimes, You Just Need Your Dad

I tried extremely hard to stay off of the internet today.

I wanted to avoid the Facebook status updates, the tweets, the Instagram posts.. I really didn’t want to see it at all.

I’m usually pretty ok with it too. I’ve become quite the emotionless person (not for a lack of effort) and little things usually don’t get to me.

But this year, Father’s Day has been a little bit more difficult.

This year, I really miss my dad.

For those who are new to UO, you may be unaware that on August 30th, 2009, my dad passed away after battling a rare blood disease and having a bone marrow transplant.

It’s almost been 4 years since it happened.

It’s been long enough that it’s just a terrible memory, but not long enough that I can still hear his voice and see his smile in my mind. It’s been long enough that I don’t get very sad when I think about him anymore, but not long enough that I still think about how much I need him right now. It’s been long enough that life has continued on, but not long enough to forget his impact on mine.

As you all know, my Crohn’s disease is back. I have been dealing with random stomach aches, symptoms from medications, and a general unfortunate change in my overall life.

But it’s different this time around.

Not because it hasn’t been too rough (which, I couldn’t be more thankful for), but because I don’t have my dad to take care of me.

My dad and I in Cuba. (I was not feeling well at the time)

My dad and I in Cuba. (I was not feeling well at the time)

I’ll preface what I’m about to say by clarifying how amazing my mother was during my sickness. I do not want to make it seem like she wasn’t an incredibly strong woman for being able to handle my disease, and keeping up a job, and a household, and a younger child, because she was. However, as my mother worked out of the home, her and I had a very different connection while I was sick than I did with my dad. Since he worked from home, my dad was always there.

On the days I would try and go to school, but not quite make it past the first couple hours because of the pain, he’d pick me up, put me on the couch, get me a nice hot water bottle for my stomach, and wrap me up in a blanket in front of the TV. On the days when I couldn’t eat, he’d make up a silly game to make me take shots of those disgusting meal replacement shakes so I’d get some nutrition. On the nights when I couldn’t sleep because of side effects of medication, he’d stay up with me and give me riddles to try and solve until I’d fall asleep. He would  ask the doctors all sorts of ridiculous questions to make sure all my treatments were safe, he would take me to the hospital on the days I really needed to go, and he would crack jokes whenever he could to keep my mind off the pain and suffering I was dealing with.

This time around, I find myself going to doctor’s appointments, visiting the hospital, and sitting through treatments on my own. I no longer have my dad to question every decision a doctor could suggest. I no longer have my dad to accompany me to the hospital and tell me jokes to distract me. I no longer have my dad to give me a pep talk before I go into a procedure, reminding me that I am strong.

The worst part is, I no longer have my dad to rub my back when my stomach hurts.

As the years go on, and memories start to fade ever so slightly, there is one so vivid that I will never forget it.

I was visting my dad in the hospital, a few days into his chemotherapy, which they had given him before his bone marrow transplant. He was alone that afternoon and I had come to keep him company. The chemo had started getting to him and he wasn’t feeling well, he told me as he laid in the hospital bed on his side. I remember sitting next to him, on the bed, and rubbing his back, almost as if by instinct. A few minutes later, a nurse who I had not met, came in to check his IV machine. She said hello to me and my dad immediately chimed in, with a giant grin on his face, to introduce me:

“This is my daughter. She’s rubbing my back like I used to do when she was sick a long time ago.”

I will never, ever, ever, forget that smile.

While the day is almost over, and I’ll soon be able to get back onto the internet as per normal, the thoughts of my dad will linger. Now, every time I see a doctor, I always make sure to ask the ridiculous questions that my dad would have asked. Now, every time I walk into the hospital, I find something to giggle at to take my mind off the reason I’m there, as my dad would have done. And now, every time I am about to go in to a procedure, I remind myself that my dad always knew I could handle anything that came my way.

For all of you who have spent the day with your dad, or just an hour with him, or even just called him on the phone, I want to tell you how lucky you are. Sure, sometimes dad’s can be overbearing, or annoying, or they can even make you really really mad.. (mine surely did).. but no matter how much they may get to you, they are a part of your life. A part that you may not realize you’ll miss when they’re gone.

Trust me.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

Damn You, Genetics

It’s a widely known fact that Crohn’s disease is hereditary.

In my family, it is not only I who has the horrible disease, but my dad’s brother and a cousin of my mom’s who do, as well. It was no surprise, then, when I was diagnosed with the disease some 13 years ago. In reality, my parents and I had kind of already known.

I’ve never really been too fond of my genetics. I mean, sure, I love my family  and everything about them. I also kind of like that I am semi-intelligent and some may also say that I’m kind of witty, all of which I’m sure have come from some of the DNA inside of me. Having Crohn’s, however, is one of those things I just do not like about those chromosomes inside of me.

Well, that and the fact that I look Asian.

Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know – I’m not. At all. Not even a tiny bit.

Nope.

I’m 100% caucasian. White. Ghostly, in fact.

Seriously.

No matter how white my DNA may be, it has not stopped others from being seriously perplexed by my apparently ambiguous ethnicity. It’s actually quite a common occurrence for me to be asked “what I am.” At the mall. In a restaurant. On a plane – everywhere.

“What are you?”

“Um, hi, my name is Jessica. I’m sorry, have we met?”

Being 23, almost 24 now, I’ve become pretty accustomed to this strange occurrence. I’ve even gotten used to all the Asian jokes my friends and family make about me. It’s become just another one of those things that I get teased about (out of love, of course) so it always just rolls off my back.

Until this past Monday.

Remember how I had that movie callback? It turns out they really liked me and wanted to see me again, for a 3rd time this past Monday.

Score.

So on Monday, I got to the audition, same place as the times prior, and walked in to see the producer who happened to be outside of the audition room. He greeted me with a huge smile and said he was extremely glad that I was back.

Double score.

I waited outside the audition room (since I was early) to go over my lines a bit more. The actor who they had already cast to play the male lead, and whom I had read my lines with during the other two auditions, came out to answer a call. Once he finished the call, he came over to me and said that he was also glad I was there and that he was “rooting for me” because he wanted me to get the part.

Alright – now we’re talking.

A few minutes later, I went into the audition room where the producer, the male lead, and the director all were. We exchanged some pleasantries, laughed over a few inside jokes (which, apparently, we had), and I couldn’t have felt better about where this was headed. Then, before I knew it, out of nowhere, it happened:

“So, we were talking, and, well, we all weren’t quite sure what… you… are…”

I jokingly told them that I get asked that all the time, but that I am white – Polish and Eastern Russian, in fact. They were shocked, to say the least. Some more laughs were had and the topic was passed.

I continued on with the audition, not thinking too much of what I had just been asked. According to the director I was delivering exactly what he wanted to see and I was confident in my performance. On the completion of my audition, the producer asked to talk to me outside to explain the movie in more depth. I was really happy with where this was going.

“So here’s the deal..” the producer began.

“We like you, and we think you are by far the best actor we have seen! …. Our only issue, though.. is.. well, is that there’s a character that is supposed to be your sister and we can’t find anyone who’s good enough to play the sister who looks like you…”

What.

“You are by far in the top-tier of all the performers, seriously – the best we’ve seen, we’re just having a small issue here.”

Are you serious?

“Is that why you asked ‘what I was’? ”

“Haha.. yeah. I just want you to know, if you don’t get the part, it has absolutely nothing, at all, to do with your ability. You’re amazing. It’s just trying to match you with someone. We’re not too sure what we’re going to do. But seriously, you’re amazing.”

Oh. My. God. 

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME.

Shell-shocked at the end of our conversation, I got up to leave. On my way out, I thanked the producer for considering me for the part, to which he shook my hand strong and firm and gave me a hearty goodbye. He then said they’d make their decision by Monday.

Then I left.

And then I wished I wasn’t so goddamn weird looking.

Just as the with the Crohn’s disease, how I look cannot be changed. My DNA has made me who I am and there’s nothing I can do but accept it – small eyes, diseased intestines, and all.

While it is only Wednesday, and I have a few more days to wait, I remind myself, (every time I jump through the roof when my phone rings), that there are some things you just can’t change. What is important is that you accept who you are and deal with the situations as they arise.

Good thing they have medications for Crohn’s…Now, what do I do about my face?