This week the IBD community was outraged when Sam Faiers, ex-towie star and Crohn's sufferer, declared that her boyfriend Paul had effectively 'cured her illness ' Sam, who recently gave birth, made the statement on Instagram after people had decided her boyfriend was, for want of a better word, a little bit weird. Leaping to his defence, Sam proclaimed that despite the fact he couldn't make beans on toast, Paul was the man that has cured her Crohn's through his detailed research into 'natural medication'. Right.
Understandably, sufferers were quick to correct the former TOWIE star, since IBD, like all autoimmune diseases is chronic and, as a result, incurable. Yes, we may enjoy many years of remission if we're lucky but IBD is a disease that is always really lurking in the background. Thus even those who haven't had problems for decades are reluctant to use the 'c' word. Not only that, but talk of such natural medication (whatever that is, Faiers didn't elaborate and quickly edited the contents of her post) also diminish the very real and very strong medications that the majority of sufferers take each day: a cocktail of immunosuppressants, antibiotics, steroids and anti-inflammatories. Surely the implication here is that we should be chucking these in the bin and searching for this holy grail of natural medication that Paul (a man who was so fatigued by his girlfriend's labour that he took a nap) has discovered?
Perhaps not. Yet is Sam really to blame? After all, she had no choice but to become an unofficial spokesperson for the disease when she diagnosed very publicly during a stint on Celebrity Big Brother several years ago. This thrust Crohn's disease into the media spotlight and while this did sufferers a great deal of good in terms of awareness, it also came with a double edge sword. While Sam did great things in promoting the disease she has subsequently become an authority whose opinion is readily published. Sam is asked questions on what diet she follows and what medication is on and her experiences are taken as gospel. Yet, did she sign up for this? Not really. After all, this is a girl who dated Mark Wright and no one seems to blame her for that. Yet as soon as she shares something about her illness (in an admittedly naive but overall positive statement- sharing her successes) she's blasted for being a poor representative.
That's the problem with celebrities; we so badly want their experiences to become our own. We trust them on everything: from what clothes to wear (a celebrity sighting practically guarantees a brand's products to sell out) to what foods to eat and even to put on our faces (blood facials anybody?) Yet should we really be turning to them for health advice? It's admirable that many celebrities speak out about their illnesses (Avril Lavinge shared her struggle with Lyme Disease; Dynamo is open about his battle with IBD) but in recent weeks many have chosen to keep this hidden (most recently Terry Wogan's secret battle with cancer). Why? Because they perhaps know that they will be held as a role model patient; with everything about what they say or do scrutinised. Or perhaps because it's really none of our business.
So while Sam Faiers is certainly naive, all she is doing is sharing her own experiences with the disease. Would we lambast a stranger in the street for not knowing the facts about their illness or speaking out of turn? Unlikely. We can't expect people in the public eye to know everything and if we forgive Sam for her clearly questionable taste in men then we can surely forgive her for wanting to celebrate her victory with Crohn's disease, whether that turns out to be a temporary or permanent one.
Jenna Farmer blogs about living with IBD over at www.abalancedbelly.co.uk