Remember That Time I used to Blog? Well, Here’s an Update…

Long time, no see.

Last week I started to repost some of my posts from Crohn’s Week last year. In the 2 years since my diagnosis, so much has changed and it was great to recount the story of my diagnosis. I started to prepare the latter half of the Crohn’s weeks posts for you, but realized that many of them were less accurate and relevant than they were this time last year so I decided against it.

I’ve been supremely busy this month and a lot of it has had to do with being in transition and making lots of changes in my life. I really thought that when I quit my job last year, I had figured out what I wanted to be doing in my life and had developed a formula for my perfect pie of life. I’ve come to realize over the course of the last year that this year was much more of a transition year than a destination than I had previously thought.

This year, I’ve had some amazing opportunities in the performing world. Through REX, my first Fringe show, the Ashley cabaret, other performances and auditions I’ve really realized that performing is what I wish I could do all the time. I feel alive onstage and nothing else fills me with the same energy, passion and love. Don’t get me wrong… Weight Watchers is still amazing and I’m having a blast leading 9 meetings a week, but it’s just not what I want to be doing forever.

This realization meant that some things in my life needed to change, so I decided to take some time off school. In my last class, I really wasn’t giving it my all and that really isn’t like me. I knew that I was going to have November off based on class availability, but after some soul searching and a lot of tears I decided that my heart really wasn’t there and the best decision would be to take some time off.

Leaving school was incredibly hard and I felt like a really big failure. I felt like I had made all of these life changes in order for me to go to school and then was going to cop out by leaving my program. I went back and forth for awhile, but knew what I needed to do after I started bawling when my grandmother asked me the question “Are you happy?” in a conversation over the phone.

Leaving school has allowed me to place greater emphasis on my performing career which has been really great. I’ve been doing lots of singing (including a performance at a celebration of Danielle’s life), enjoyed a great run of RENT155301_461098997329_510602329_6102264_5907459_nand after a few auditions and callbacks, I scored the lead in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (so excited!!). I have some other auditions coming up in the next couple of weeks and am looking to sign with an agent as well. Things are really coming into place and I couldn’t be happier.

With all that has been going on, I’ve really been struggling with my eating and my weight. I’m still happily gluten free and vegan (with my Crohn’s still lying low!!), but just haven’t had the time to eat at home, prepare meals, exercise or go grocery shopping. Since getting to goal in 2007, I have comfortably maintained my weight with some ups and downs along the way. I’ve talked about maintenance as well my own struggles, feelings and emotions more than ever this year and I’ve really felt it in the last couple of months. After 2 huge breakdowns with my Weight Watchers manager and personal trainer, I finally feel like I’m in control of the situation again. The reality is that I’ve gained a few pounds and do not feel good about it. I’m eating well and exercising and feel confident that I can regain that good feeling I once had. I know that my hard work is going to pay off and I’m really excited.

I feel like blogging and blog-reading has really taken a back seat in my life and am working on making it come back! I would love to post some meals, some reviews and my thoughts on the new Weight Watchers plan (which launches in Canada next week!!) The holidays are just around the corner and I would love to do some blogging on preparing for the holidays as well. Despite not being in school, I feel like time to myself is less than ever, but am working on achieving a balance of everything.

I look back at where I was this time last year and am so amazed at all the changes that my life has undergone. I’m not exactly where I thought I would be, but I’m a much happier person, which is all that I can ask for. I’m so excited for 2011 and all of its potential!!

Play it Again–A Paradigm Shift Accompanied by Peglyte & Answers

Originally posted November 10, 2009

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.

Peglyte-4L 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 terminal ileumknew 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

Play it Again–My Mystery Illness & 14 Months of Pain, Blood and Poo

I can’t believe it’s been a full month since I’ve blogged! I’ve been insanely busy and feel horrible for neglecting all of you. In honour of IBD awareness month, I’m replaying my Crohn’s Week posts from last year that documented my journey to healing with Crohn’s. I’m going to end the week with a recap of my life and how things have changed for me in terms of my health this year. After that I’ll be back to blogging regularly xo

Originally posted Monday November 9, 2009

My intention this week is to raise awareness of Crohn’s and IBD by sharing my story and the stories of others. I’m going to preface this post by saying that some of what I’ll be discussing will be graphic. I think part of the reason IBD falls under the radar is because people don’t want to talk about poo. We do it all the time, yet no one wants to talk about it, and that’s part of the reason my symptoms went on so long before I spoke up. So here we go, poo and all.

I was a fairly healthy person growing up. I had chronic earaches between ages 4-6, had the Chicken Pox when I was 10 (and proceeded to spread them to my entire class and family) and had a concussion when I was 13 (fainted in gym class). Beyond the typical colds, occasional flu and rounds of antibiotics there was never anything really wrong with me growing up. I began taking the birth control pill around age 17, but other than that had taken no regular medication.

As I’ve previously discussed, in 2006 I decided that I wanted to lose weight. I got to goal in February 2007 and became a Lifetime member in April 2007. I felt great. I was happy with my weight and was absolutely making better choices and taking care of my body. In June 2007 I performed in a recital with my singing group, Ashnaba. It had been a long day and I developed a migraine-like headache by the end. Joey and I walked home and I went to bed early so that I would be ready for work the next morning.

When I woke up the next morning, my headache was gone but I was not feeling well. I began to have diarrhea and called in sick to work. There had been a lot of people in my office the previous week for district meetings and there were quite a few people at the recital. I thought perhaps I had picked something up from someone or had eaten something that didn’t agree with me. I tried to leave the house to go to Shoppers Drug Mart for some juice, but the diarrhea was so bad I was unable to get out the door.

The diarrhea continued throughout the day and was accompanied by horrific stomach cramps. I was doubled over in pain and spent a lot of time in the washroom. By this point there was nothing left in my system because I was unable to keep food down. When I tried to eat I either had more diarrhea or vomited. By the following day, nothing had changed so I stayed home from work again. Joey was calling me every couple of hours to make sure everything was okay. He called me late in the afternoon to see if I wanted him to pick anything up on his way home. I asked him to pick up a thermometer because I felt like I was running a fever.

Joey brought home the thermometer and when we took my temperature we realized it was 104 degrees. I hadn’t had a fever since I was a child and both Joey and I were pretty freaked out. We weren’t sure what to do and at this point still had no idea what was causing my illness. We called the Telehealth nurse to determine our next course of action. The Telehealth nurse said that if it reached 105 we needed to go to the hospital, but until then we were to wait for it to break.

It was so scary. Joey was so calm that whole evening, but later confided that he was incredibly scared. Adults don’t just run fevers of 104!! My fever broke about an hour later and I fell asleep for most of the night. I woke up on Wednesday to more diarrhea, stomach pains and vomiting.

By this time the lethargy had started to kick in. My body was so tired and I hadn’t been able to keep anything but popsicles and gatorade in (and even those were exiting my body fairly fast) Joey took me to the walk-in clinic because I didn’t have a family doctor at the time. While I waited for my turn, I was lying on the floor of the clinic crying because I was in so much pain. It felt like we were waiting forever!! When a doctor finally saw us, I described my symptoms of the last few days to which he didn’t really have an answer. He told me to take some Pepto-Bismal, drink lots of fluids and sent me down to the lab to give a sample of my stool.

The stomach cramps and vomiting finally stopped the following weekend, but I continued to have diarrhea for 3 weeks. I kept taking the Pepto-Bismal, but stopped after a pharmacist told me that there was no point considering my diarrhea had gone on so long. I started eating again and started to get my energy back. After not eating for a week and another 2 weeks of diarrhea, I lost at least another 10 lbs. This was a little scary since I had just gotten to my goal weight, but gained a bit of it back once I started eating properly again.

Over the next year I would have a variety of day-to-day problems. Looking back on everything now I can see a pattern and also see that they were connected to my original illness, but like I said at the beginning: nobody wants to talk about poo. I suffered from terrible stomach cramps on the toilet and off, blood in my stools and urgency when I had to go to the washroom. I was also tired quite often and felt faint or dizzy a few times a week. For 14 months I let everything go on in the background. Everything was great in my life, I had started a new job, had become a Weight Watchers Leader, was performing in shows a couple times a year and was in a great relationship. I was 23 or 24 and therefore healthy, right?

In August 2008 I went in for my yearly physical. We went through the normal stuff and at the end the Dr. asked if I had any questions. I said yes, and proceeded to spill my guts about the pain, blood, urgency, tiredness and horrific tendencies of the last 14 months. He inquired a little more and examined my bum. He commented that there was a fissure/skin tag, which may have been causing the bleeding. We talked a bit about my mysterious illness from the previous summer at which point he realized the wrong test had been done with my stool sample, so nothing was found. He prescribed some antibiotics and ordered me down to the lab for some blood work.

Two weeks of antibiotics did nothing for me and the blood work revealed that I was anemic. With the symptoms I had described, the fissure and now the anemia, the Crohn’s and Colitis warning bells were popping up. He prescribed daily iron supplements and B12 for the anemia and set up an appointment for me to see a gastroenterologist. The doctor assured me that there was a chance it might be Colitis, but said it was probably nothing and seeing the gastro was just an extra precaution.

It was around this time that I started to feel upset and angry. I remember going back to my office that morning after the appointment and my boss nearly sent me home because I was so ticked off and on the verge of tears. I didn’t want anything to be wrong with me and I certainly did not want to have a Disease.

Check back tomorrow to read about my first visit with the gastro and the tests that followed.