Imagine standing in a room full of people, on fire (literally), and everyone continuing about their business…never acknowledging that you need help. That is probably the most accurate way to describe the first 31 years of my life. Around age 7, I began to complain about severe stomach pains after eating certain foods. The pain would become so intense that I was unable to walk. My poor older sister would hold my hand through a crack in the bathroom door, as I sat on the toilet bleeding and crying in pain for hours at a time. My parents took me to doctor after doctor, only to be told that I was “dramatic”, “seeking attention”, or “eating too much junk food and not enough fiber.” Given the feedback from doctors, my parents did what any parent would do…increased my fruits, vegetables, and fiber intake. That was the worst decision.
What my parents and doctors did not know, was that I had crohns disease. Stuffing a chronie (as we call one another) with fiber, fruits, and vegetables, is a straight ticket to the hospital for 3-5 days. For a chronie, “eathing healthy” is actually NOT choosing the salad. See, people with crohns develop scar tissue in their intestines after extended periods of inflammation. So forcing fiber or “roughage” through scarred intestines can feel like razor blade covered balls, tearing through your body. Imagine that pain, with chills, bleeding, SEVERE fatigue, 15-20 trips to the toilet along with excruciating joint pain…and you have my typical day. I have given birth to two beautiful children, and can say without hesitation that labor pain does not come close to the pain I have endured as a crohnie.
Despite years of sickness, I successfully completed college and gradschool. I also married my high school sweetheart, and started a family. But, 5 years into my promising career, things came to an abrupt hault. On March 4, 2011, after losing 15lbs over 2 months (I am 5’5 weighing 120 so I didn’t have much to spare), 15-17 documented daily bathroom trips, and mouth sores, I received my official diagnosis of crohns colitis. I recall being relieved and devastated…all at once. After 31 years of pain, I was relieved to have an answer that didn’t involve being “too dramatic.” But, I was devastated because I knew immediately that the journey I so desperately wanted to end…had only begun.