Ione Gamble on chronic illness and creativity

The editor of Polyester zine reflects on being diagnosed with a life-changing illness aged 19, and how it’s led her to chart her own path through the creative industries

Ione Gamble had barely started her fashion journalism degree when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Following six months of symptoms including weight loss, internal bleeding and fainting at any given moment, she was eventually rushed into hospital. When she came to, she found herself hooked up to a drip of steroids and was given the news by her doctors that she had a life-altering form of inflammatory bowel disease in which your digestive system views itself as a foreign object that it should attack.

“I wasn’t really aware of chronic illness, or that there was this middle ground between acute and terminal illnesses, and struggled to come to terms with the fact that I just wasn’t going to get better,” she tells CR. “I was also diagnosed at 19, a few months after I started university, so at the time was already adjusting to big changes and getting to grasps with living independently – it felt like I had to recalibrate my entire understanding of how to operate in the world.”

Top: Ione Gamble. Above: Gemma Collins on the cover of Polyster zine

Gamble’s university experience was transformed overnight as she found herself having to deal with everything from regular hospital stays to injecting herself with immunosuppressants, all while living with day-to-day symptoms including debilitating fatigue, abdominal pain and, as she describes it, “a general feeling of having no idea what is going on with my bowels”.

“Although it was really scary, it didn’t really prevent me from going about my daily life. I was really intent on keeping up with my workload and not letting anything slip. I probably could of given myself more of a break but at the time being at uni felt like the most important thing I could be doing,” says Gamble. It didn’t dampen her ambitions to work in magazines either. In fact, it was while she was spending up to 20 hours a day in her uni sick bed that she founded Polyester, her intersectional feminist zine inspired by a quote from cult film director John Waters: ‘Have faith in your own bad taste’.

These industries are considered cut-throat for a reason – on the whole they are run by upper class white men who really don’t care about marginalised people