Hi, my name is Jessica and for the past eight years I’ve been living with and battling ulcerative colitis (UC). I’m not sure how many people actually know about colitis, Crohn’s, or them collectively know as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). I noticed these diseases were missing on the blog, perhaps no one has shared their story yet.
To sum up IBD, it’s an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive system and our bowels. Needless to say there is a lot of PAINFUL bathroom trips, blood, embarrassing “accidents,” and can lead to hospitalization after hospitalization. Not to mention the pills and medications that can just destroy the body. It can affect men and women, children and adults. There is over 1.5 million in the US battling the disease. It’s quiet because no one wants to talk about pooping themselves. Especially women since, “we don’t poop or fart” At least that is what most of my guy friend’s tell me.
Anyway, almost eight years ago I was diagnosed with UC after several months of pain, accidents, and blood. I lost 20 lbs in one week and was a whopping 90 lbs that day. I walked away from that doctors visit scared out of my mind. The only thing I really knew about the disease was there was no cure, and that I could look forward to years of pain and surgery. It was a hard pill to swallow. I was 20 and just becoming an “adult.” The only knowledge I had about sickness and disease was watching my grandfather lose his battle against melanoma skin cancer. That’s the only thing I had to possibly compare it to, and it scared me.
For four years I struggled coping and accepting living with an incurable disease. My mindset was, “I’m never going to get better so why should I bother.” I never followed treatment, and made a lot of bad decisions. I got so depressed and traveled along this downward spiral until 2009, when I was at my sickest. My GI told me he was going to refer me to another doctor because he didn’t want to be responsible for my death. I lost my job, was incredibly sick, bordering on alcoholism, cheated on by an abusive boyfriend, and to top it all off had to move back home with my mother.
I had come to the decision that if things couldn’t change I wasn’t going to live to see the next year. Thankfully things did change. By chance I heard of a non profit organization that supports my disease and some of the support programs they developed. I was so sick and tired of being my own victim so I checked out one of them. The program was running for a half marathon, and it saved my life. I went to a meeting to learn about it, it was fundraising and training to race in support of awareness and a cure. I said “F it, I’m running a half marathon because it’s got to be a lot better than what I’m doing now.” In the three months of joining this program I met over 20 people living in my city with the same disease, who were going through similar struggles. When in my first 4 years I never met a single soul. I have been running in these races with this program for the past 3 years now and have become a patient advocate, telling in detail my story and struggles, how I overcame them, and how I have been able to live a very fulfilling yet very difficult life with the disease.
Just this past year the best opportunity of my life crossed my path, and I now work for my disease organization. It gives me so much strength to know that every day I am helping work towards the cure.
I still deal with getting the disease under control and have moved into the heavy hitters of my disease treatment, I am looking forward to finally seeing my disease in remission this year.
Of course with that hope comes a little doubt. Just last week I was also diagnosed with endometriosis and there is a very high possibility I will be losing my right ovary. You’d think one disease was enough?! This past week has been very dark and troublesome but has also had its good sides. I know after fighting for 8 years against colitis how strong I am and that I can overcome this too. I have my worries of child birth but I will face them when I am ready for that part of my life.
As upsetting as it was to find out that I battle two diseases, I am also actually happy and excited because it makes more sense to how difficult treating one has been over the past 8 years, because I have always been fighting two!
I won’t let colitis or endometriosis stop me. I am still running (on the days I feel good of course). I have taken up a new love for rock climbing and being outside because no matter what everyone will have to go to the bathroom outside when your climbing, hiking or camping! Running and climbing have been some of the best therapy and release for me. They make me feel strong and unstoppable because as physically challenging they are, they are even more mentally challenging and I’m only as strong as my mind allows me to be.
I will keep fighting, running, climbing, enjoying life like a girl. I am strong enough to and I deserve to.
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.