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Finding Motivation to Demand Better Health

I’d been vomiting for hours, with no word back from the doctor’s on-call service. Did I call back again? I didn’t want to piss them off. They were probably busy. What the hell would the on-call be able to do for me anyway? If I didn’t eat anything, and if I tried not to move my body too much, I wasn’t in too much pain.

I’d lost a lot of weight and people at work were starting to notice. The 5th – maybe 6th? – new medication was now making my hair turn thin and brittle. Anemia had caused my skin to take on an ashen hue. The latest medication’s side-effect of heartburn left me in as much pain when the food was going in as I was when the food was coming back out.

The doctors had tossed around the idea of Crohn’s Disease, but I hadn’t been officially diagnosed yet. My body hadn’t been able to tolerate the tests. As a result, the doctors wanted me to “rule-out” other things first. Elimination diets, antibiotics, probiotics, and other daily changes proved unsuccessful in bringing relief. The 4th doctor that I was now seeing, she was willing to try scoping again with the help of proper anesthesia, so that we could move on with a diagnosis. I was in the middle of a busy work day when I got the call that would make it official. I had Crohn’s Disease. In response, all I could muster was an “Ok. Thanks.”

Things were moving too quickly at the time for me to understanding what was happening around me – to me. I was 21 when I experienced a rapid-onset of symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue. I had fallen in love and wanted to focus on that. I had graduated from college and I wanted to live that promised life: work hard, play hard. Instead, I was dragging myself into as little work as I could to stay employed, and I was becoming an expert on the family dynamics portrayed on TLC. Work a bit, drag myself home to sit in front of the TV and escape life; my new motto.

Doctor’s visits came and went. Tests were run and results were reviewed. My diet was modified and symptoms were journaled. Medications were ordered, filled, and taken. I was a “good” patient, as I told myself that I would be. I wouldn’t complain about the pain or make their lives harder. They were doctors; they must know what they’re doing. I’m just a woman who didn’t ask for this life experience; I’d let them be the experts. I just wanted them to like me.

But, after playing it safe as a recluse for months, I decided to ring in 2009 with style. After three days of not eating, I drank until my body didn’t hurt anymore. I had fun. The next morning, though, was a different story. I started vomiting and passing blood, and I knew that things couldn’t continue like this. As I typed “Crohn’s Disease” into Google once again, I came across a discussion thread of women who were having trouble getting pregnant while their disease was in an active state. I had always assumed that I would be a mom someday, but would this disease take over that part of my life, too? Shit, that was just too much.

Instead of writing in my food journal that night, I wrote down the words that would change my role as a patient forever: I want to have kids someday.

With new resolve, I walked into my weekly appointment determined to find a way out of this hell-hole.

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