Mackenzie Hood (South Carolina)
School: University of South Carolina
Major: Dance and Psychology
Hometown: Wilmington, NC
My name is Mackenzie Hood. I am currently a sophomore at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. I am pursuing a double major in Dance Performance and Psychology. I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in December 2015, during my freshman year of high school, when I was 14 years old.
For the first few years of my journey, I was in complete denial and just wanted to be “normal.” I felt very alone and struggled to accept this new part of myself. Because of these feelings I was experiencing, I was not very involved in the IBD community. At the end of my senior year of high school, I was inspired to organize an IBD awareness event in partnership with my local university’s baseball team. This sparked my interest in getting more involved with the IBD community. It wasn’t until I found the Foundation and the NCCL, where my passion for IBD awareness truly sparked. Becoming an active member in the IBD community has been life changing for me. It has helped me cope with my diagnosis and finally begin to accept myself.
This past year I have become really passionate about making a difference and initiating change on my campus. I have founded an organization called Gamecocks Breaking Barriers, where we educate our local community on the challenges that students with disabilities face on a daily basis while pursuing a higher education, and we aim to provide a safe space on campus for these students to empathize with one another and collaborate for greater change within our community.
My IBD has caused me a lot of pain and hardship, but it has also brought me great maturity and personal growth. Because of my Crohn's, I have had the privilege of meeting so many amazing and inspiring people who have made a forever impact on my life. I am so thankful for this opportunity to serve as a member and leader of the NCCL, as I hope to continue to make a difference in the lives of people who struggle daily from IBD just like me. After my undergraduate studies, I aspire to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical health psychology to one day become an IBD psychologist, so I can help others like me understand that they are not alone and help them find positive ways to manage their disease and the mental health struggles that come along with it.
I think the hardest part about IBD is that it is an invisible illness, so it can be very difficult to communicate to others what it is really like living with this disease. By building a community like this, we are able to help support and empower one another to actually make the difference that we all dream for. And as a reminder to all of you amazing fighters: IBD does not define you, but your courage and strength does!