We’ve all heard this before. I’m guilty of offering up this piece of advice to those who need it and whenever an important decision needs to be made – I often abide by “trust your gut”.
But how am I supposed to trust my gut when my own body is trying to destroy it?
Throughout my life, I had fought the common cold; the occasional flu and what the doctors thought that at the age of 13 were just pre-menstrual cramps. But after constant nausea and feeling tired all the time (I’m not joking, I would wake up and ten minutes later need to take a nap) I finally decided that it was time to get answers – or at least a different perspective. It took 6 long months of three doctors collaborating tog
ether through blood work, scans, testing and scopes and finally on October 7th, 2015 (one week after my 19th birthday), I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
I stared blankly at the doctor who announced the news.
I was unsure of what the moment of silence he placed upon me was for. Wait, was I supposed to cry? Get angry? Panic? Leave? At that moment I had absolutely no idea what Crohn’s disease was and how it was going to affect me! I was just happy we finally had an answer for all of the nonsense my body was throwing at me.
Crohn’s disease? Okay… so what’s next?
I can’t help but laugh at myself when I think about that moment. How did I stay so calm, cool and collected? Well, simply because I had no idea what the next year of my life would entail. Like many of you – I had no idea what Crohn’s disease was and I had no idea how/why I got it.
After a year and some of being a ‘Crohnnie’ (I don’t really think that’s a thing – but let’s just go with it) I’ve learned a few things (a lot actually). But I learned them simply because my body forced me too.
For those of you who are even the tiniest bit interested in what I’ve endured and will continue to endure – here’s a summed up, somewhat sugar-coated version of what Crohn’s disease is!
Brought to you by the ‘Crohnnie’ herself…
Throughout university, I’ve come to learn that a body is a body – a physical structure composed of different types of cells that together create tissues and eventually organ systems that ensure homeostasis and viability. In order to do this, it consists of many systems – one being the digestive system. We all have one. Mine is just… what’s the best way to put this? Mine’s just hella pissed off at itself!
So what lead me to the doctors in the first place?
Well, symptoms of Crohn’s disease differ from person to person which is why diagnosing it can be difficult at times. You can find a full list of the symptoms here: Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
As I mentioned before, I’ve had miss-school-lay-on-the-bathroom-floor-and-cry-all-day cramps since I was 13 years old. My symptoms consisted of these cramps accompanied by bloating, nausea, reduced appetite, major fatigue, muscle pain and the worst one of them all – extreme blood loss.
What does that lead to?
Well, Crohn’s disease is named after the brilliant man who first described it almost 100 years ago. It’s a chronic, lifelong illness which to this day still has no cure. It falls under the category of an irritable bowel disorder (IBD) and can strike anywhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is also considered to be an autoimmune disease. This causes my body to attack and damage it’s own tissues which then leads to all of the symptoms I listed above and more!
My body is attacking itself. It acts as if my healthy cells are an infection that it is fighting to stop. Therefore, it is fighting itself to the point where parts of the bottom of my small intestine and beginning of my large barely exist anymore.
My immune system is overactive like Usain Bolt compared to yours being the camera guy that ran into him.
In the past, it has been known to be a genetic disease, but my case was different as there is no genetic history of such a thing – luckily, further research and studies are being done to determine other possibilities that jump-start this illness!
Looking back on it, I’ve probably had symptoms of Crohn’s disease since I was 13 years old and just didn’t know it. The doctors didn’t have sufficient reasons to think that I did at the time and it never crossed anybody’s minds once (including mine or my parent’s). Since my diagnosis, I have felt and dealt with things that I never thought I would have to experience at the age of 20… or ever really. Crohn’s disease is becoming more and more prevalent among young adults my age – it is time to become more aware!
For more information about Crohn’s, the testing and diagnosis process, complications and whether you could be at risk – check out: Are You At Risk?
For more about my journey with Crohn’s thus far and all that it has forced me to face check out more blog posts to come! My Gut Journey