Monday, July 9, 2012

Because I Have Crohn's Disease - Part 1 of 2

“Dude, is that a pill box? What are you . . . like 80 years old? Why do you need to take so many pills?”

“Because I have Crohn’s Disease.”
We all have quirks with our bodies. Some people have bad knees or get migraines; my thing is that I have Crohn’s. When I was born my stomach wasn’t full developed. Feeding me wasn’t an easy task for my mom and I didn’t have much of an appetite during my childhood.

As I entered my teenage years and got through my growth spurts, I started eating more like a regular teenager but my bowel movements (BMs) were often irregular. I did have a stool sample checked out when I was in high school but nothing came of it. I learned through trial and error that I couldn’t eat like other teenagers and that it seemed like a lot of different foods set my stomach off in a bad way.

In college my digestive system actually did pretty good. The schedule of college of classes with lots of break in-between meant there wasn’t a level of stress around going to the bathroom, which I later found out was a major factor in my Crohn’s.

I ate like other college students and did some partying. Even though I had some instances when my stomach wasn’t happy, for the most part, I didn’t think about my digestive system. Then in my second year of grad school I started student teaching and things got bad.

Working eight-hour days in a high stress environment resulted in stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation and other levels of digestive discomfort. It got worse in the Fall but I seemed to manage it but then when that Spring hit, I couldn’t take it any more.

Jamie Lee Curtis is right on those Activia commercials. Irregularities in your BM’s are not normal. If you have diarrhea for more than a week straight, you need to see a doctor. After suffering through months of discomfort, I finally went to see a gastroenterologist. This resulted in a colonoscopy (they basically sent a camera my butt) and a biopsy (taking a sample of tissue in my lower intestine).

After the procedure and some tests were done I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. In short, Crohn’s is a inflammatory autoimmune disease. This is a chronic condition in which certain factors, environmental, genetic and others effect the digestive system in an abnormal way. Diarrhea is a normal and necessary function when a person gets food poisoning. The difference is that a person with Crohn’s may get diarrhea for being stressed out or for no explainable reason.

I did not take the news well when I was told I had Crohn’s. I was really angry. First off, I was put on a lot of medicine to calm my digestive tract down and at the same time begin taking maintenance pills to keep my system calmed down.

At that time, I was taking ten pills a day.

This was ridiculous. This wasn’t fair. What did I do to deserve this? Why did I have to have a colonoscopy at a twenty-four year old and then find out that he has a chronic disease that will never leave him?

I had already spent way too much time worrying about whether I’d make it to bathroom in time, wondering what would happen if I ate something and thinking about my digestive system as opposed to my life.

What did having Crohn’s mean for my future?

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