Ramsgate dad-of-three Michael Isaacs is on a mission to get more people “talking about mucus, blood and poo” in a bid to increase understanding of bowel conditions Crohn’s and colitis.
The former primary school teacher has lived with the conditions for most of his life and says he will now use his poetry to raise awareness and hopefully encourage others to get an early diagnosis.
The 40-year-old was first diagnosed with colitis when he was just 13-years-old and says he was “scared, embarrassed and in a great deal of pain.”
He said: “I was bullied quite a lot when I was younger. It was embarrassing and I didn’t speak much about it
“I kept my illness hidden from my friends, after all how do you tell someone that you bleed every time you poo? There were occasions when I struggled to hide what was going on, such as the length of time I took when going to the toilet. I was frequently humiliated and bullied as a result.”
Michael says nerve and joint pain meant his mobility was limited and frequent hospital appointments meant his social life was non existent.
He added: “I felt isolated and too crestfallen to explain to my friends what was happening. The fact that my parents were so supportive was a great source of comfort.”
In 2009 Michael, who is deaf, was diagnosed with Crohn’s, a condition that made it very difficult for him to work.
He said: “Frequent toilet trips made teaching very difficult. I was in and out of the hospital a lot and it was quite a rough time and not a sustainable profession for me.
“Fortunately my wife Lindsey had already trained as a teacher and we decided to swap roles. It was one of the best decisions we made. My health stabilised and in 2015 I went on a new medication where you go to hospital every four weeks for an infusion. My general health improved.”
In 2019, after his mum died, Michael took up poetry. He said: “My mum was only 59. It was quite a tough time and I turned to poetry and that really got me through. I also lost my mum-in-law in January so poetry was a way of channelling emotions.”
Michael says he now wants to use his poetry to speak out about bowel conditions, raise awareness and hopefully encourage others to talk about any symptoms they may be experiencing.
He said: “Times have changed and it is now my time to get it out there and raise awareness and get rid of the stigma and embarrassment around Crohn’s. I hope it will encourage people to get an early diagnosis as later complications could include cancer.”
Michael has been performing at a number of local open mic nights including at Sugar Rush in Ramsgate, which was the venue for his first public reading, and at the Margate Bookie poetry slam.
Now Michael, who is dad to three boys aged 14,11 and 5, will read one poem a day in public for seven days starting on Friday [December 1] to coincide with Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week [December 1-7]
Some poems may just be read out during his walks around Ramsgate. Others will be read at venues including:
- Sunday: Word Slags, The Albion Rooms, Cliftonville, 7pm
- Monday: Going global – sharing Crohn’s poems across the globe, to friends in America, New Zealand and Australia. Updates on social media from 7:30pm
- Tuesday: Fort’s Coffee, Harry Baker, Something Borrowed event 7:30pm
- Thursday: Poets Corner, Folkestone, 7:30pm
Michael said: “It isn’t an easy thing to talk about but it could help someone go and get an early diagnosis and I am at the stag in my life where I hope I can help people by going out there and sharing.”
Michael’s poetry journey and a video diary can be followed on Instagram @michael.purple.poetry7
There is also a fundraising page to raise money for Crohn’s & Colitis UK
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue. Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications. There is no known cure.
Crohn’s & Colitis UK supports and advocates for people affected by the conditions. The charity is working to improve diagnosis and treatment, and to fund research into a cure; to raise awareness and to give people hope, comfort and confidence to live freer, fuller lives.