This is my second post for Crohn’s Week, which details my trip to the gastroenterologist following more than a year of pain, blood and a few too many trips to the washroom.
It didn’t take long for my attitude towards a diagnosis to change. I started to read more about IBD and had resigned myself to the fact that I probably had Crohn’s. All signs were pointing to yes, and after 14 months of pain and a 3 week stint of diarrhea, a diagnosis was going to mean answers. You might say that a paradigm shift occurred as my anger and sadness turned to relief, acceptance and positivity.
Up to that point I had faced my fair share of obstacles in 24 years. My parents separated when I was 5 and then again when I was 12 (after a reconciliation in the middle), my mother committed suicide when I was 13, and my father faced his own demons in life. I never felt great about my body and it wasn’t until I joined Weight Watchers in 2006 that I attained healthy weight and perspective. Many people would look at these things and spend their lives feeling sorry for themselves. Not me. With all of the challenges that I have faced in my life, I have moved forward with a positive attitude and a smile on my face. My life has been a beautiful gift and I try to live each day to the fullest (hence why my blog is called ‘Dancing Through Life’) and I decided that my visit to the gastroenterologist would be no different.
The administrative assistant who handled referrals at the clinic called me the following day and scheduled an appointment with Dr. A less than a week later. In his office, I once again told my story of unexplained illness, diarrhea, blood, urgency, lethargy and anemia. I even got to drop my pants and have the second man (in less than a week) poke at the fissure on my anus. After recounting my whole story, Dr. A seemed fairly certain that I had IBD, but wanted to perform a colonoscopy to be sure and get a sense of how badly damaged I was on the inside. Just prior to my appointment there had been a cancellation, which meant that it was only going to be 5 days before I had a camera in my behind.
For those of you who have never prepped for and endured the joy of a colonoscopy, I’ll start off by saying that the prep is 1,000 times worse than the actual procedure. The day before my procedure I was not allowed to eat anything, only clear fluids. I had some nice juice and broth throughout the day, which was fine. That evening I had to drink 4L of PegLyte, 1 cup every ten minutes until it was gone, to clean everything out.
PegLyte is absolutely disgusting.
While Peglyte may smell like fruit, it does not taste like fruit and has the consistency of half-set jello. The first few cups were okay, the next few were bearable, but somewhere I around litre 2 I started to feel awful. Every cup was a chore to choke down and at litre 3 I was in tears. Poor Joey had to urge me to continue drinking it, at which point, I told him where he could shove the PegLyte. After trying a sip himself, he understood my pain. I finished roughly 85% of the stuff, gave up and went to bed. I spent most of the night making trips to the washroom as the PegLyte did its job cleaning out my bowels.
Joey took the day off to accompany me to the hospital. My appointment was first thing in the morning and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I read Twilight while we sat in the waiting room and listened for my name to be called. After putting on a hospital gown I was led to a bed where the procedure was explained to me and the anaesthesiologist and I chatted about what his children were for Halloween. The next thing I knew I was waking up and a nurse was asking me if I wanted juice. I (thankfully) missed the whole part in the middle where the camera was inserted and Dr. A had a look around. As I was sipping my juice he came over to my bed to tell me that I had Crohn’s Disease.
He explained that Crohn’s can affect a person anywhere from their mouth to their anus. He brought over a diagram and showed me that my disease was located in my terminal ileum. The terminal ileum is where the body absorbs B12, which explained my B12 deficiency and subsequent anemia. He mentioned that there was a small tear close to my anus that wasn’t healing because it was probably re-opening whenever I had a bowel movement (which at this point was 2-3 times each day, so you can imagine how little healing this tear was actually doing). Dr. A pulled out his notepad and scribbled a prescription for Pentasa (an anti-inflammatory, for my inflamed ileum) and Flagyl (an antibiotic to help heal the tear and prevent further damage and infection) I thanked Dr. A, changed out of my hospital gown and went with Joey to enjoy my first real meal in 36 hours.
We actually had a really nice lunch, although I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I would be. We talked about the procedure and diagnosis and I felt pretty at ease with the whole thing. We stopped at a bookstore on my way home and I picked up Crohn's and Colitis: Understanding the Facts About IBD. I had some stomach cramps throughout the day but spent most of the afternoon sleeping them off. I woke up in the evening and realized that while I had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease earlier in the day, it meant that I had an answer to why I had been suffering for the last 14 months. The answer also meant that I could now become an active participant in my healing and work towards getting back to feeling good again.
Tomorrow I’ll discuss the strategies I’ve employed in my path to healing