‘Being myself was the only skill I needed’ – Meet Theo, one of our Research Champions

Theo became a Crohn’s & Colitis UK volunteer Research Champion in 2023. In this blog, Theo shares his diagnosis journey and what it’s like to be part of research – which isn’t as scary as he first thought! 


Three hours of sleep every night. Four years of school. Ten bowel movements every day. Fourteen years old. Those are the numbers prior to my diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis.

I was a young teenager at the time. I was sporty - and active. There was hardly a single day of the week where I wasn’t up to some activity or another. That’s when I started to notice it, though - the fatigue, the nausea. The complete lack of energy to do anything other than drag myself to the toilet far more frequently than I should’ve been.

I was terrified. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what to do. It had never occurred to me that this was something worthy of a trip to A&E. But I went - and I’m glad I did. The help I received there was second to none - I was finally diagnosed. It might sound silly, but it was a weight off my shoulders.


So much has happened since then.

I was told by my nurse about Crohn’s & Colitis UK, which opened the door to such a supportive and helpful community. Knowing there was a whole network of people with a similar experience to me really helped me to get my confidence back. For the first time in a while, I wasn’t alone.

That’s why, a few years later when I found out about the research champion role with the charity, I was keen to join. I wanted to give back, so that no one would have to feel the same way I once did.

But that didn’t stop me from being apprehensive about what I was getting myself into. I was 19 years old at this point - and I was clueless about what getting involved in research would actually require of me.


To someone like me, the word ‘research’ itself is a scary word. I’ve never been the most academic person – ‘I’m a Journalism undergraduate, not a science prodigy,’ I thought. As it turns out, just being myself was the only skill I needed to be successful in helping researchers, because I had something a lot of them didn’t - lived experience with the disease. That’s all they ask of you, the researchers. No scientific jargon, no overwhelming numbers and formulas – just for you to tell your story and how their projects will affect others with IBD.

Now, I’m not exactly shy myself – in fact, those who know me know me to be quite the opposite, but my entire experience as a Research Champion I’ve felt comfortable from the start. From my first meeting with Crohn’s & Colitis UK, to my most recent meeting with external researchers – I've always been made to feel welcome and in a safe environment to share my stories.


Theo Chapman

Research Champion


So, what I’m saying is, if like me you felt like you want to give back to a community that welcomed you in, getting involved in research is the perfect way to do so. It doesn’t matter what skills you have, how severe your illness is, or how old you are – your experience of IBD is all you need.

I’m now 20 years old and in my final year of university. I’m excited about my future - at one point I never thought I would be. But, thanks to the support I’ve received after my diagnosis, I am.

Things DO get better. Talk to people. Share your burden. Get support. Give back.


Follow Theo on social media: 

Instagram @theowritesthings

Twitter @theochapman_


Want to get involved in research?

The best quality research happens when people with Crohn’s and Colitis are involved, and you can make a difference at every stage of research.


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