Written by: Brooke
Talking about my colon. Not exactly a glamorous conversation! Kind of embarrassing, actually! But, one that I feel I need to share because I know I'm not alone. Jenny and I truly believe that by sharing our personal struggles -- and let's be honest, we ALL have them -- it can help others. It definitely lets others know they're not alone. Maybe this will speak to you.
So, nine years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease -- Ulcerative Colitus.
I remember the doctor explaining it to me and what it meant for my life. But, honestly? In that moment, I was stuck on the fact that she was diagnosing me with a DISEASE.
For years, I was able to blow my disease off and just dealt with the symptoms. I didn't talk about it and lived with my pain in silence. This is actually the first time I've ever talked about it publicly.
I was embarrassed about it... the symptoms. I would have horrible flare-ups and just sort of 'hide out' until things calmed down. I always knew where the bathrooms were (and still do) no matter where I went.
I did try some medications but all of them just made me feel worse! I had allergic reactions to them constantly. I actually remember years ago, Jenny and I were supposed to meet on the Plaza to shop. I took my meds and drank them down with a grape soda. Not even 15 minutes later I was having a reaction. Cold sweats in bed, trembling, feeling like I was going to shiver to death... my skin was crawling.
So, again, I stopped taking the medications and kept my disease at bay. I got pregnant and oddly, I was fine for the entire pregnancy. I felt great, it was wonderful. I had my sweet baby girl, Ellianna Grace. A few months after I had her, I got very, VERY sick. My disease was back in full force.
This time was different. This time I actually felt like death was a better option than feeling so completely terrible. I could not keep ANYTHING in my body. I was frail, anemic and couldn't retain any nutrients. There were days I literally felt like I was not going to make it.
So, I needed answers and I needed to DO something about it. I went to my GI doctor who immediately ordered me to have a colonoscopy. Results: the disease had taken over 75% of my colon and I had to do something fast. My doctor recommended steriods, which I had taken before to get the inflammation down to a functioning level AND this time a new chemotherapy drug.
Wait, excuse me? CHEMO? Just how sick was I?
Before I said yes to anything, I started researching. Now, this may not be the way for everyone -- but for me? It was the only way I was going to feel even remotely comfortable putting the recommended drugs into my body.
Ultimately, I decided to make some life changes and see if I could get things under control.
I completely changed my lifestyle and the way I was eating. I removed SO much from my diet with the help of my friend Abby (I'll blog more about her later!) She put me on a diet of extremely clean eating and I started taking medical grade vitamins. I went to bed earlier and removed as much stress as possible. After a few months, I felt better and had very few symptoms. This may not work for everyone, but it worked for me, and for that I'm so grateful.
Today, if I eat a certain type of food, I react. For me and my disease, food and stress both play a huge part in how I am feeling. I listen to my body more carefully now and I get checked yearly. So far, I'm doing okay.
I believe everyone struggles with 'something'. This has been my 'something' for a long time. It's NOT fun and I wish it wasn't part of my story, but it is and I've come to accept it and do my best to keep it under control. People would look at me some days when I was at my sickest and had no idea how distraught I was or how truly horrible I was feeling inside. That has taught me not to judge any book by its cover. Life perspective. For that, I'm also grateful.
If any of this sounds familiar -- you may want to check the list of Ulcerative Colitis symptoms here. I encourage you to see your doctor. If you're living with this disease or any other, remember to keep fighting and always be your own advocate.