Hi, my name is Melinda Sapaugh, and I'm a 24-year-old college student at the University of North Texas. I was diagnosed with Crohn's when I was 15 years old.
It all started when I began having cramps that seemed to never go away. One day, I was at a friend's and I went to the restroom, and all I could see was blood. Terrified, I immediately told my parents and I went to the emergency room several times, just to be sent home. I was persistent and finally I was graced with a wonderful team of doctors at Children's Medical Center who discovered a diagnosis.
I was homeschooled for several years in high school because I was constantly sick, and received blood transfusions every couple of weeks. There was nothing we could find that could control my disease. I tried several medications that failed to work. I had a great group of friends and family who supported me through this time, and the high school I once attended and was homebound through, let me attend prom and walk with my friends at graduation.
Luckily, I went into remission for the first year of college and everything was great, until I had the worst flare-up I've ever had at 19 years old. I was hospitalized for 3 months that I can hardly remember. During my hospitalization, I had to have emergency surgery because I had developed toxic megacolon, was septic, and my colon was expanding and was about to burst. I looked 9 months pregnant and was told that I had to have surgery immediately or I could die. This was the toughest time in my life and the toughest experience I have had with IBD. I was left with no choice but to have surgery for an ileostomy in hopes to be able to reconnect in the next several years.
An entire year passed and still, I was so severely sick. I was hospitalized once again, to now make my ostomy permanent since the last bit of my colon was not healing. I experienced so many emotions. I was conflicted and angry that all of this was happening to me and I had absolutely no hope... until I met Aaron.
Aaron, who is now my fiancé, was in the same hospital just a few rooms down. He was having surgery as well, and a nurse who knew me and my involvement in the IBD community, recommended we meet because he did not know anyone else who had Crohn's disease. Since the moment I met Aaron, everything changed. He showed me that regardless of my disease and the obstacles I've had to overcome, I was still adored and loved by so many people. He helped me build my confidence and to find joy in pursuing the things I once loved.
My ostomy gave me my life back and led me to meet my other half and the person who I confide in. I've been in remission for 4 years and am the healthiest I have been since my diagnosis. My biggest curse ended up being my greatest blessing, because I would not be who I am without my Crohn's! I have no idea what I would do without the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation and everything they do with Take Steps, Camp Oasis, Young Professionals, or all the people I have met because of it. All of us are strong, incredible, unique individuals, and nothing can stop us from being who we are and pursuing our dreams. We are fighters.