At age 17 and as a senior in high school I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It is something I have hidden from many people for YEARS because it has not been an easy thing for me to talk about. My journey with Crohn's has been far from pleasant and not something that comes up in regular dinner conversation. I was almost ashamed of it for a long, long time and wouldn't even tell my closest friends about it.
It started when I was having digestive issues in May 2005. I hid it from my parents because I thought it was just a stomach bug that would go away, but it got to the point where they were noticing my issues. Finally my parents confronted me and I admitted I had been having symptoms for a few weeks and was hoping it would just go away. We went to the doctor who had me undergo dozens of tests. I continued losing weight because I could not eat normally and the things I did eat went right through me. I lost 45 pounds and NOT in a healthy way. I went to many doctor’s appointments and had many tests...with no answers. Finally I went to a gastrointestinal specialist and he recommended a colonoscopy. As a 17 year old that was the LAST thing I wanted to do. We exhausted all options but stubborn me still did not want to have a colonoscopy done, much to my parents' chagrin. A couple months later, once I had enough of being sick, I went to my mom and asked her to schedule one. That was January 2006.
The procedure was quick. My doctor took me into the recovery room and showed me the polyps on my colon. He told me we had answers, and I had a classic case of Crohn's disease. Finally, after months of medical tests, we knew what was wrong. It was scary but at the same time I knew what I was dealing with. I went on an oral medication that I took for many years after that (eight 500 mg pills per day). I finally felt better...not completely normal, but almost!
For many years I felt relatively healthy. It remained -- and to this day remains -- a daily struggle. Some days were great, other days were not great. I'm still never sure how things are going to be day to day. In the spring and summer of 2015, I experienced a major flare up of Crohn's. I had a horrid stomachache that was literally constant for about six weeks. I put on my happy face most of the time but in reality I was struggling quite a bit. I couldn't do very much and ended up cancelling quite a few social plans because of it. The weather was awesome outside but I literally couldn't do anything but lay on the couch when I got home for the day. I couldn't even do dishes after dinner. In the weeks leading up to my wedding, my gut had again taking a turn for the worse, the worst it had been since I was diagnosed. I was planning my wedding (August 2015) but DREADING having my wedding day ruined by Crohn's.
I made an appointment in early August 2015 at a GI clinic. At my initial appointment, I was told they needed new pictures...lucky, lucky me scheduled the second colonoscopy of my life 12 days before my wedding. I had so much inflammation that the doctors could not get their scope where they needed to go. I ended up having to do a gastrointestinal MRI that same exact day which included drinking three pints of liquid barium. I had not eaten for over 40 hours prior to that so you can imagine how "fun" that was! My follow up appointment was later on that week. I was able to get on medications right away which helped calm my gut down, and they scheduled even MORE appointments that next week for blood work and follow up. I found I was able to squeeze myself in the schedule by mentioning how I was getting married in less than two weeks. My prayers were answered and I was ever so grateful that our wedding went WONDERFULLY and I did not have any Crohn's-related issues the entire day! It was such a relief- it was a fear of mine since I was diagnosed that this disease would affect a major event in my life. I am ever so grateful that my doctors helped me feel better in time for the wedding.
That leads to today. My medications are finally figured out and I am finally feeling close to normal. I am seeing the right doctors to take care of my disease. It is hard to believe that it has been 11 years of daily struggles with this disease. It has been 11 years of coping with Crohn's symptoms at the least opportune times. It has been 11 years of scanning to see where bathrooms are the moment I enter a new store. It has been 11 years of medications. Eleven years of occasionally having to cancel social events because of my symptoms. Eleven years of fearing travel because I didn't always know if I would be able to get through the vacation without Crohn's issues. Eleven years of putting on a happy face even when at times it is the last thing I want to do.
There was a time when I could literally count on one hand the number of people who knew about my issues with Crohn's disease. Few people knew about my procedures in high school. Few people knew about my health issues in the summer of 2015 right before my wedding. Even fewer people have known about the daily struggles I have been dealing with for the past 11 years. I'm not going to suffer in silence anymore.
You can't make assumptions about people just from what you see on the surface. There have been many times where I have had to fight through symptoms when all I wanted to do was go home and curl up on the couch. Those internal battles do not need to be fought alone. Not anymore.