It was the summer of 2015, I was on holiday with my friends in Italy having an absolutely fabulous time (jealous?) When I started to have a little stomach trouble… I figured it was a bug that I might have picked up on my holiday. I resolved to get checked by my GP when I got back to the UK.
Which I did. He also thought it was a stomach bug, I was prescribed antibiotics and went on my merry way. They didn’t do much, so I was prescribed a different set of antibiotics. This happened one more time before he finally admitted that he didn’t know what was wrong with me. He referred me to a gastroenterology specialist and I was placed onto an 18 week long waiting week.
I knew I could not wait 18 weeks.
I was going to the toilet ten times a day with what can only pleasantly be described as “explosive diarrhea”, sometimes for an hour at a time. My stomach pain was constant, and sometimes I would throw up my food immediately after eating. I was losing weight rapidly, the joints in my knees and arms were always aching, I was tired all the time and I had strange, red bruise-like rashes all on my shins.
I am very lucky, concerned by how gaunt and thin I looked, my father decided to pay for me to go private. At this point I had been experiencing these symptoms for six months. I was at my wits end, I had gone from being perfectly healthy, to barely recognizable.
I finally got an appointment to have an endoscopy and colonoscopy, which revealed that I had large ulcers and inflammation all across the right half of my colon, a small portion of my terminal ileum and the traces of it in my upper GI tract.
I was immediately diagnosed with Crohns Disease. It was January 2016.
I was weak, the colonoscopy and endoscopy had been very painful, and the prep for it had left me tired and famished.
When I arrived home I fell into my husband’s arms and cried out of exhaustion and – bizarrely – happiness.
Because here’s the thing about a diagnosis. You feel relieved. Not because you’re ill, but because finally, finally it has a name! You feel vindicated, there is something wrong with you! You are not mad after all!
But then the reality hits. You have a diagnosis – a disease – and it’s not going away any time soon. So you go home, you read up as much as you can about the illness, the good, the bad, the ugly and either one of two things happens:
1) You feel positive, confident even, that you will find a way to manage it and be back to your normal self as soon as possible.
2) You feel lost, upset because you have no idea what’s going to happen next and you have no clue what your treatment will be or how it will work.
And the thing is, both of these are kind of true.
In my next post I will write about the various drugs for IBD and my personal experience with them. If you have recently had a diagnosis I strongly suggest using the internet as a tool. Go on facebook and join a support group, go on instagram and search for others with the same illness. Everyone has their own story and it’s helpful to read about them, because while we may not all struggle in the same way or react to treatments identically, it’s comforting to know that we’re not alone.
Have a wonderful day sweet things.