My name is Brandi Kitchens, some of you know my story, and others only know what has been going on with me the last few months, and while others may not know me at all. My ulcerative colitis story began in 2005.
I began showing symptoms in the fall of 2005. I went from a healthy 120-pound girl to a very sick 99-pound high school senior who just wanted to make it to graduation. After seeing several doctors and having more tests than I can count ran, the doctors looked at my mom and said "we don't know what is wrong with Brandi". At the time, my dad was a motorcycle accessories salesman, and in early January 2006, one of his customers asked him to pray for her and she opened up to him about her symptoms. They were so close to what I was experiencing. She made a call to her gastroenterology doctor, and I was seen within 2 weeks. After a colonoscopy the first week of February, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) at the age of 18
The first thing I asked my doctor was can I still have children. My doctor assured me that there should not be any issues related to my UC and conceiving a child. The verse I have clung to throughout this journey is Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." My medicine worked very well to keep my UC in remission until I was stressed about finals or something of that nature. With some rest and relaxation, I would go back to normal within a few days.
The good Lord blessed my husband and me with a son, Brantley, Christmas morning of 2013. He is the light of our life. He keeps us on our toes and is 100% boy. The louder and dirtier the better, in his mind. I wouldn't change being his mama for the world.
Progressively over the last 5 years, my UC medicines were no longer working to keep the disease in remission even with the help of steroids. In April of 2018, my doctor and I decided it was time for some more aggressive medicines, called biologics.
I'm sure you have seen the commercials on TV for a few of them. Well, I failed all three that I tried. That left me with 2 options: to try more biologics with really bad side effects or have surgery to remove my colon. I had 2 week-long stays in the hospital to receive IV steroids during the summer and fall of 2018. After research and a long conversation with my doctor, we decided it was time to take my entire colon. The surgeon would also create what they call a J-pouch with the last of my small intestine, and this pouch would act as a colon once everything healed. During this healing process, I would have to have an ileostomy (a collection bag on the outside of my body).
Mentally, I was prepared for the surgery and the bag on my side. What I wasn't prepared for was the pain that came with surgery. My first surgery lasted 15 minutes shy of 6 hours, and when I woke up my ileostomy would not work. The muscles tightened when I woke up and caused the hole to be so small even air couldn't pass. I went back to surgery 13 days later to revise the hole, after less invasive methods did not work. All of this time I was in severe pain. I kept telling people I would take labor pain over the pain I was having. The second surgery lasted about an hour and a half. I woke up to minimum pain and things began to work as they should. In the middle of January, they found I had developed a blood clot in one of the three veins that lead from the liver to the small intestine. Once the clot dissolved, my surgeon was able to reverse the ileostomy on February 14, 2018, meaning I no longer have to have a collection bag on my hip.
I tell you all of this because I know this process has been a long one and I'm still not fully healed. But as I have clung to the words of Philippians 4:13, I know I can't have made it this far alone, God had been there every step of the way. I also have an amazing family, wonderful friends, and an extraordinary community that has supported me along the way.
My one wish is that someone that may be struggling with an illness or just going through a hard time can learn from my story that our God is always with us and with him on our side all things are possible.