According to The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, 1.6 million Americans have inflammatory bowel diseases, which include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The chronic conditions can be treated but there’s no cure.
Comedian Ben Morrison was diagnosed when he was 17 and had painful stomach cramping.
“When Crohn’s kind of literally just turned on senior year — that’s the best way I can describe it — all of a sudden, I have Chron’s and everything is all backed up,” he said. “The inflammation was so localized in the ilium, it was easy to spot, but bad because it was out of nowhere.”
He got treatment and then, in 2004, had surgery where doctors removed a foot of his colon. He was pain-free and not on medicine for about a decade. Then the condition flared up again four years ago, resulting in a painful obstruction and hemorrhoids that turned into a fistula. Over the years, he’s tried many prescription medications to manage his Crohn’s disease.
“I’ve had Crohn’s for more than half my life, and basically been on most of the different drugs used for this type of therapy, so I’m familiar with the ups and downs of them,” Morrison said.
While he prefers to not have to take prescription medications, he acknowledges he often needs them. Each year, he discusses his medicines with his doctor to see if and when he can stop therapies.
During the pandemic, Morrison has been extra cautious and wary of getting sick. He says the best defense is to take care of yourself, doing more of what works for you, and being consistent. Looking ahead to the future, he’s hopeful for a cure instead of maintenance therapy.
For 20 years, Morrison has been performing his one-man-show “A Comedian’s Guide to Crohn’s,” and says, “Humor has been such a useful megaphone for me.”
He calls Crohn’s a “crappy disease” and says humor is a great way to remove the taboo of the situation. Doing his show has been therapeutic, especially because he enjoys connecting with other people who also have the condition.
“I feel a sense of relief in the people I talk to afterwards,” he said. It’s such a safe space to talk about Chron’s that I will meet someone and five minutes later, I’m literally hearing about the inside of their colon.”
He encourages other people with Chron’s to laugh more, too.
“Look into humor as a way of communicating what’s going on with you,” Morrison said. “You’ll learn a lot about yourself, you might get better at telling a joke, and you will find if you just own it proudly and put a little funny twist on what’s actually happening, you will wind up communicating what is going on with you, which your soul needs a lot more frequently.”
While there is certainly a stigma around Crohn’s disease, Morrison advises people with the condition to own it.
He doesn’t shy away from telling people he has Crohn’s disease, yet he doesn’t offer details unless people need to know.
“My advice to everyone is just go for it,” he said. “It’s not something that you’re ashamed of and it’s not something that you’re overly talkative about. It’s just one little part of you, so you don’t need to run from it and you don’t need to run toward it — it’s just there.”