Just in case you don’t read on, PLEASE, PLEASE always get checked out at the doctors if you have a change in bowel habit or you start passing blood. It might be nothing or it could be something serious that if caught early will cause you no bother. Be safe, not sorry.
WARNING – this article contains real life shit!
I thought I’d share my story with you of how I came to be diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) in 2012. Even some of my friends and family may not be totally aware of my condition, mainly because of the shame and embarrassment I felt before I was diagnosed and the stigma that is still attached to bowel disease. So here are the bare bones, I’m coming clean so to speak.
Before my diagnosis, I’d say that I had suffered since my early twenties with stomach issues and the best way to describe it is to say that I used to feel like I was carrying a bag of spuds around in my stomach. I often had griping pains and terrible bloating, albeit sometimes brought on after a boozy night out or eating too much fatty food. I mentioned my symptoms on numerous visits to the doctor which resulted in the same “it could be a bit of IBS”, there isn’t any treatment & it’s not serious, deal with it & go away so I can treat patients with real conditions. That was pretty much the brunt of it. I did manage to get referred once in 2006 to the hospital, only to be told that my symptoms were atypical (which means not typical) of IBS so if I really wanted to have a camera up my jacksie they would take things further but of course I didn’t chose to have that done. I couldn’t think of anything more horrible. I went away, tail between my legs so to speak.
My symptoms were monumentally exacerbated when my mum fell suddenly ill in 2002. The worry, the helplessness and frequent long trips to the hospital sent my stress levels soaring and my “flare ups” or “incidents” as I began calling them, of crippling stomach pain and violent sudden unaccountable diarrhea (at the MOST inconvenient times!) just became the norm. Life became a mess, in every sense of the word. Eating became a nightmare as all food seemed to set me off. Even drinking a cup of coffee could have me running to the toilet. My anxiety rocketed and my obsession with locating public toilets whenever I left the house began.
I was also plagued my mouth ulcers, up to 10 at any one time. That was particularly f**** miserable. Again, there is no real treatment for these ulcers, just grin and bear it.
Sadly, mum passed away in May 2005 and despite marrying David (my absolute hero) in the April I was at my lowest most miserable ever. I was very British about the whole thing and tried to carry on regardless and pretend that everything was OK when in reality I still lived in physical pain and discomfort and mentally I was in bits from grief and I just didn’t want to admit that I was weak and not coping.
Gradually the grief eased little by little and life carried on. Imodium became my new best friend. I would take it almost every day some weeks, just to be able to function.
In 2011 I went to the doctors as I had been passing a small about of blood. Luckily for me I saw a different doctor and she looked at my previous history and declared that she thought I was suffering from ulcerative colitis, part of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease family. Hallelujah!! You may think I’m weird but I was so happy. Finally, someone took my symptoms seriously and I no longer felt like a fraud. I had to undergo a sigmoidoscopy and although I was terrified it was actually only just a bit uncomfortable and I have to say the staff on the unit at the hospital were brilliant. And yes, I saw the ulceration with my own eyes on the monitor and I got my diagnosis, a mild version of distal colitis. I was so relieved to finally have an answer. The good news for me was that it was mild and it has responded well to daily medication, touch wood. I could be on the tablets for life but I’m in remission and I’ve only had the occasional flare up since my diagnosis.
I count my blessings as I know that there are lots of people who suffer chronically with this disease and also with Chrons disease, another far more serious member of IBD. I also know of people who are still undiagnosed even after numerous tests but still suffer horrible debilitating symptoms of this disease.
I became quite obsessed with the Bristol Stool Scale during all this and I encourage everyone to know what is normal in this area and what is not. Enough said.
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