Life with Crohn’s Disease

It was December 2010 and it was my first Christmas away from home after moving the to UK. My Mom and Aunt had just been to visit at the beginning of December so I was prepared for a laid back holiday season with my then-boyfriend. On Boxing Day, I had started to feel a dull but growing pain in the right side of my stomach but I put it down to the fact that I had probably ate about 50 clementines in the span of 72 hours and the acidity in my stomach was acting up.

But the pain didn’t go away- it grew increasing worse. And two days later on 28 December 2010 the pain was so bad that I couldn’t walk. Time to go to the hospital.

Life at St. Thomas Hospital ain't half bad
Life at St. Thomas Hospital ain’t half bad

The initial diagnosis is that I had appendicitis and that bad boy had to come out. Luckily for me though, someone wanted to run an additional CAT scan to ensure that it was 100% an inflamed appendix and not something else. As it turns out….it was something else- Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from your mouth to your bottom (fun!). People with Crohn’s can experience the disease differently and the symptoms can vary however typically when experiencing a flare up, the symptoms on the inside of the body emulate themselves on the outside of the body.

Rewinding slightly, several months before my diagnosis I had been experiencing some really weird symptoms that were hard to understand given my recent change in lifestyle. I was exercising 6 days a week, eating clean and avoiding alcohol. So I couldn’t understand the constant and excruciating pain that would regularly and randomly pop up into my life. I went to doctors in both the UK and Canada and no one could tell me what was wrong. The symptoms died down about 6 weeks before I was hospitalised and it was only was I was diagnosed with Crohn’s that everything made sense.

After being diagnosed, the doctors informed me that in order to treat me, they would have to put me on a daily medication…for the rest of my life. At the ripe age of 24, the thought of being medicated on a daily basis for the next 25 to life was just not an option so I asked if there was another way.

Apparently there is. There is no cure for Crohn’s, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and flares beyond medication. Exercise, a clean diet and avoiding alcohol where possible are the best ways to manage out breaks and smoking is a big no-no (not that I mind, smoking has never appealed to me). So in other words, if you take care of your body, your body will do its best to take care of you- sans drugs. That’s logic I can’t argue with. I also have to be careful about what I eat as I have trigger foods that can set me off into a frenzy of symptoms and a week of stomach pain. Raw peppers for example, can be especially bad for me.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that whatever your situation, you don’t need to be a victim and you don’t need to make excuses. Often times, health issues can be improved (but maybe not cured) by leading a healthy active life and it is up to you to take responsibility for your own well-being. Of course everyone is different and you should consult with a doctor first, but don’t always assume that medication is the only way to be better. I chose not to take medication but rather control my situation through an improved lifestyle. Not only does this have a positive impact on my life, but I am not putting extra strain on an already over-loaded medical system and I’d like to think that I am acting as a good role model in relation to how I chose to live.

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