I've been searching all night for blogs of others with Crohn's Disease in hopes of finding someone else's journey that I could relate to or see how this wonderful and lovely (major sarcasm there) disease affects others. I have to say that they are not many. That's a good and a bad thing depending on which way you care to look at it. What ending up happening though was that I had a revelation that thoroughly freaked me out and is definitely not healthy for my state of being at the moment.
Everyone's journey with Crohn's Disease is different. It unfortunately has the capability to jump all over your digestive tract which is why everyone does not respond the same to the disease or treatments. I've never found anyone with likeness to my journey.
Here's the shortened (ha ha... that's a joke) version my last 14+ year journey with Crohn's:
I was diagnosed at 15 with Ulcerative Colitis after being told for a month that it was just a really bad stomach flu (thank goodness for my strong willed amazing mother who knew better than that). I was immediately put on Salfasalazine and after a while I started to feel better so I weaned myself off of it. The spring of my Jr year in h.s. I became extremely ill again, went back on the meds, and immediately made an appointment to see a G.I. (which was booked until July). By the 4th of July I was so sick that I could eat and couldn't take my meds because I threw EVERYTHING up, even water. My amazing boyfriend (now husband) spent those last few days carrying me around because I was too weak to stand longer than a few moments. On the day of my appointment, the G.I. took one look at me and said that she was admitting me into the hospital and we could talk after I was checked in. That first stay at Doernbecher's Children's Hospital was 31 days. During which time I was put on TPN (a feeding tube that bypasses the stomach) so that my colon could rest but it didn't do what they'd hoped and 3 weeks into my journey they let me know that I needed to have my colon removed. My family prayed and talked but the doctors said that at this point there wasn't any other choice. They showed me the horrible pictures of what my poor colon looked like but it wasn't until after I came out of surgery that they told me that if I hadn't gone with the surgery when I did or even at all, that my colon would have burst and all that poison in there would have killed me. This also was the first I'd heard of Crohn's (the un-curable sibling to U.C.) but they wouldn't know one way or the other til they looked at it during surgery. Best case scenario they should be able to create a j-pouch on the inside with my small intestines so I wouldn't have to have a permanent colostomy on the outside of my body at 17. The whole process would take 3 surgeries to complete during the course of next 6 months (wasn't quite how I thought of spending my senior year in h.s.). Surgery went well and they were 100% sure they were dealing with U.C. and not Crohn's which meaned that life would go on as normal after I healed because without a colon you can't have U.C. I made it through my senior year very exhausted, not at school a whole lot, and a little cautious (hiding a temporary ileostomy can do that to a teenage girl) but with high hopes for the future.
I started college that next fall really excited but still feeling really exhausted. I kept getting what they called pouchitis - an infection to the little reservoir they'd created for me. I also never returned the health they expected me to. During my sophomore year I lost my health insurance and it all started down hill from there. That summer I exhausted myself that my anemia became so bad that my legs became covered in welts that looked like someone had hit me repeatedly with a baseball bat. From there I got my first fistula. I had no idea what was going on or what it was and no doctor to talk to. I went to the emergency room and came home in tears because the doctor had no idea what I was talking about tried to tell me it was an STD (I was a virgin and not sexually active). It would heal and go away and then return. I was hospitalized many times over the course of my Jr and senior year in college and it even caused it so that I only completely my degree as far as I could to graduate... completely missing out on completing my program and student teaching.
It wasn't until after college that my mom could get me on her health insurance for a short while. I went back to the doctor and they kept saying how they must have missed some of the U.C. It wasn't until I had a major fistula that sent me to the emergency room that we finally started talking about Crohn's. The light bulb: U.C. doesn't have fistulas but Crohn's does... and Crohn's is not curable. I then found out the next big blow. In Crohn's you never want to do a complete removal of an organ because the disease will just attack another digestive organ, you are just supposed to do re-sectioning. But I'll never know if the right choice was made to just take it all out... I mean I saw the pictures and they were really bad... but my doctor's not around to ask, he's now called Dr. Death and sitting in jail after being charged with errors that caused the deaths of many of his patients... but who's to say whether it was a mistake or it was just the way that my path with this disease was taking. I lost my insurance again due to age but got set up with a Dr during one fistula surgery that was willing to help out however he could. He got me set up with Pentasa and infusions of Remicade but both were too expensive without insurance that I was told I couldn't continue without paying my bill. I really wasn't on it long enough to know if it worked but once off you can't go back because you become allergic.
This roller coaster has been they craziest thing. It's only gotten worse as time has gone on. My worst fistula was 2 years ago and came 3 months before we got married. This one decided to travel outside of my digestive tract into another organ and I had to take an entire month off of work to re-cooperate... re-cooperate, not heal. My poor husband, being married to me must be a nightmare. Neither one of us had any clue that the road was about to get so bumpy... nothing in the past 11 years of our relationship had prepared us for the newness Crohn's had in store for our future. Each fistula has gotten worse... to the point that I'm starting Humira next week (which I've done everything possible to avoid).
Thinking about my journey and everyone else's tonight is what freaked me out so much. Tonight I saw a picture of a woman who had a fistula that traveled out to her tummy by attacking a scar from a previous surgery. Sounds disgusting and scary but it's not what scared me. What scared me is:
1. I can control most of this disease but I can't control the fistulas. From what I've read, anyone who's ever "cured" their Crohn's has never had a fistula.
2. I can't have a resection to remove part of the disease like everyone else because none of my fistulas begin in any place that can be removed without removing the little hope that I have for not having a permanent colostomy for the rest of my life. As my Dr says, we loose that and we loose all other options.
3. If these injections don't work, outside of some miraculous healing, I am out of options
4. I'm scared -- I can't stand admitting it but I am. I've been strong for 14+ years. I'm always the optimist. I'm not worried about getting through this... I have a blessed life and will no matter what. But how am I going to feel if it doesn't work and this disease will have stomped on every path I thought I was supposed to travel down. What will happen to the things that I cherish most if this same path keeps it's unending circular shape and nothing changes?!?!
Sorry to unload this but I can't wake up the hubby to confess my fears because we both have to be at work in a couple hours and he needs his sleep.
Just goes to show you that all the information on the Internet isn't good for you ;)