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Local People

With conversations around healthcare in the national spotlight, many people are surprised to learn nearly 40% of the U.S. population has a chronic illness. Many patients, like the 3.1 million Americans with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), feel ostracized by uncomfortable and even taboo symptoms. But one local woman is brave enough to share her story and inspire over 2 million people.

SydneyBaciak2
Sydney Baciak

Two years ago, Sydney Baciak was like any other teenager. She socialized with friends and was an athlete at Belle Vernon High School. Then everything changed.

“I was having such scary symptoms, I was afraid to tell my parents,” Baciak said.

After three months and multiple tests, she received a life-changing diagnosis: ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD. There is no cure. Over the next couple of years, Baciak felt isolated and hopeless, with missed high school milestones, hospitalizations and failed treatments.

Today, after three surgeries to manage the disease, Baciak is ready to tell her story as an “IBD warrior.” Facing the “you don’t look sick” stigma and often embarrassing symptoms head on, she created a TikTok video to inspire others. The response was overwhelming.

“When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone with IBD – I hadn’t even heard of it,” Baciak said. “Once I started sharing my story, so many people reached out to tell me about their experiences with IBD and other illnesses. I didn’t realize how many people were suffering in silence.”

Baciak now advocates for fellow patients and leads a team for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Take Steps national walk to fund research for IBD treatments.

“IBD can be painful and isolating,” Baciak said. “I know it can be embarrassing to talk about these illnesses, but we need to raise awareness and support our fellow IBD warriors to someday find a cure.”

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