A major turning point in my life happened in my early 20s. I was suddenly having abdominal pains and feeling sick to my stomach. And it kept happening more and more frequently. Doctors were no help. I was pushed through their revolving doors as fast as possible, while they brushed off my complaints. I was told it was just this or just that, which always conflicted with what other doctors had said. I didn’t know what to eat anymore. It always made me sick. Even sleeping was a hassle. Any sort of pressure near my abdomen was either uncomfortable or downright painful. It was a confusing time, to say the least. I stopped going to class at university. And I lost about 20 lbs.
At a culminating point of frustration, my sister took me to the hospital in hopes of getting to the bottom of this. By the end of a long wait and a few tests I was referred to a specialist. It was at this specialist that I was finally able to begin to make sense of things. More tests led him to believe that this was 99% Crohn’s disease. From this information, I was able to develop a plan. I began eating again on a very limited diet, though the specialist advised me that diet would not help. But I started to feel better and put on a bit of weight again. I was able to go back to class again. My aunt, who was a nutritionist, helped me along. Diet definitely played a key role.
After a couple of months, someone told me I could broaden my diet. It was true, that I could probably eat a bigger variety than I was currently eating, though I was hesitant to try. But after a bit of coaxing, I was convinced. I went to their place, where they had a number of things they wanted me to try. A word of advice to anyone with Crohn’s, or something similar: never try introducing multiple things at the same time. If you are going to try something new, try some of it (not too much) and see how you feel over the course of the next day or two. I learned this the hard way. I believe it was chocolate that did me in (which also happens to be my favourite – and which I still cannot eat). By the end of the day I felt absolutely terrible. My insides churned and moaned painfully. When I finally made it home and got it out of my system, I thought that would be the end of it. I just had to be wary of chocolate from here on out.
It was nearing the end of the term at school and I still had a couple of final projects to do. I spent the next three days in my room working relentlessly. But over those three days, I gradually became more and more sick. This wasn’t the regular Crohn’s kind of sickness, either. No flare up was ever like this. I had a worsening fever, coupled with headaches. By the end of the third day, there were even more alarming symptoms. Although it was more difficult than it should have been, I finished all of my final projects and was thankful. I turned my focus to my health and scoured the internet for what could possibly be happening to me. I came to the conclusion that what I had ingested punched a hole through my intestine, and was now causing an infection. The solution was surgery. It was worrying, but I made the trip to the emergency room at the hospital.
I knew things would suck after surgery, but I also knew it was something I had to get through. I hadn’t come this far just to come this far. I thought there would probably be some pain, and a small amount of recovery time before everything was back to normal and I never made this stupid mistake again. Nothing could have been further from the truth; and it devastated me. The next month was excruciating. And it seemed like it would never end.
I wasn’t given anything to help with the pain. No painkillers; nothing. On top of that, a visiting nurse poked around my wound every day for the next few weeks to ensure that there was no infection. Moving around was difficult and painful. Sitting up was the same. I was essentially bedridden for that first month, which is Hell in itself.
There was a certain point during all of this that I think I will always remember. One day, getting dressed, I found myself feeling particularly cheerful. Since I had not felt happy in some time, it came as a bit of a shock. My immediate reaction was to stop this, to get rid of this feeling. I felt I didn’t deserve it because this was not over yet. But then I had a thought. Why should I ever stop myself from feeling happy? If I were to apply that mindset to life, I would be forever miserable. Life always involves suffering, and if I only allow myself to be happy when the suffering is over, when am I ever happy? At the end of my life? Would I even be able to feel it then? It makes no sense. I could sit around wishing for the day of liberation from this pain, or I could actively make today better than yesterday. This phrase became my maxim: You can wish away forever, but you’ll never find a day like today.
As soon as I could walk, I was outside. I walked every day until I could run. And then every day I ran. It was a new freedom, and I owed it to myself. My health improved. I had a better grasp on my diet. I was finally in control of the situation, and this is critical for anyone with Crohn’s. If you are not on top of things, you will easily be overwhelmed. It is extremely easy to fall into poor health, and a lot of work to stay in control.
After this whole ordeal, my specialist hit me with an ultimatum. Either I took whatever drugs he was selling, or he couldn’t help me. He then got angry with me for asking for information on the drugs. I did a good amount of research before coming to the conclusion that these were not necessary for me. Not only did they increase my chances of cancer by a lot, but I would have to go to a facility to get them injected through an IV every week for a month or two, and then every two weeks for the rest of my life. I refuse to live like that. And this isn’t even to mention that approximately half of the people that were vocal online about their experience with these drugs got much worse as a result of taking them. It seemed like such an extreme solution for something I finally had a grasp on. I’ve never been back to that specialist since, and though I’ve had my ups and downs, I’ve never regretted my choice.
Every day life can make you bitter or better, so they say. Choose the better gamble. Every single day is a choice. Life is difficult, and sometimes it can seem like there’s no way out of your situation. But it’s always worth it to try again. It’s always worth it to start over. Always. You can wish away forever, but you’ll never find a day like today.