So, as is my custom when I start to feel run down, I have been off the blogging grid. I don’t know why I have this urge to self-censor which memories I want to document…but I know that is what I am doing. Earlier today I saw a woman with a tattoo in delicate filigree that read Life is a beautiful struggle. While I’ve always been ambivalent on the subject of tattoos, I don’t think I would mind having such a permanent reminder that the struggle is definitely worth it.
I’ve been fortunate over the past several years that this teeny tiny problem I’ve had has remained chiefly dormant. Okay, maybe the problem is not so teeny…thus the “sleeping giant” reference in the title…but it’s easy to downplay the seriousness when you’ve got a lot of other problems going on that aren’t asymptomatic.
I feel like I head back to 2006 whenever I give the backstory of an unsavory subject—but really, not much went right for me that year. Healthwise, it was the culmination of months (possibly even years) of feeling unwell but without diagnosis or treatment. I was first diagnosed with IBS, which in my opinion was a catch-all diagnosis because doctors seem to want to get patients in and out of the exam rooms at ridiculous frequency.
It wasn’t until the IBS treatments proved ineffective and the symptoms escalated (eating anything resulted in abdominal pain so intense that it brought tears to my eyes) that my doctor shared her suspicions that I had Crohn’s disease. I don’t know if she was trying to spare me when she first suspected Crohn’s, but I received a formal diagnosis after invasive tests. I later discovered that I had secondary problems (most notably a humongous infected mass that was eating away at my tissue) that could also explain the test results.
After recovering from my 3rd surgery (to remove the infection), my diagnosis was amended to Ulcerative Colitis because the inflamed tissue that was first observed throughout my intestinal tract was isolated to my colon. I honestly forgot about this until I switched my HMO and had to go over my medical history with my new doctor. I think that I was just so overwhelmed at the time with the weight of knowing I had my mother’s genetic disorder, and it was difficult to know which symptoms belonged to which problem anyway. I think I purposely kept myself from researching anything about UC because if I didn’t acknowledge it, it wasn’t there.
I had unconsciously modified my diet to avoid some of the more dramatic food reactions (high fat, high fiber, certain raw vegetables, etc.) after my first surgery because I was terrified of digesting anything with the location of my surgical wound. Digestion has been an issue in my life for as long as I can remember, so it blended in with my perceived normal—and that, my friends, is how to successfully ignore that you have an inflammatory bowel disease.
I can’t ignore it anymore though. I suppose I started having the stirrings of flare up symptoms about six months ago, at the height of the moving drama. At the time I passed it off on eating poorly (we were eating out a lot because the kitchen was packed up). My responsibilities at work seemed to explode in my face when I was asked to fill an additional role at the last minute. Then there was the upheaval with my grandmother’s death and ongoing family friction. In short, I have been under some stress.
I was trying to deal with it on my own, but to no avail. When my cholesterol (which was already very low) began falling and my CRP started climbing, I realized that this flare up was bigger than I could contain and began medical treatments just over two weeks ago. I think what I hate most about this is the lethargy. I’m hungry even though eating (rather, digesting) can be very painful…yet it’s the lack of energy that I find most bothersome. I don’t feel like myself, and that’s difficult to accept.
A beautiful struggle…the beauty is so easily forgotten when you’re in the middle of the struggle. But I’m alive and mostly well when others were not afforded the same luxury. I am trying to keep perspective through this, but I admit to having some self-pity when the extent of my evening activity is lying on the couch. It’s just another hill to climb…I’ll make it to the top eventually.
But I look forward to the day I can ignore UC again.