As a Crohn's patient, I know first hand that adversity teaches you to become a stronger person.
Sick at 15
I was diagnosed with Crohn's at the age of 15, and within three years I've experienced every symptom imaginable with this horrific disease. I've had 3 surgeries within 6 months, including a total colectomy (removal of the colon), over 20 flares, and 9 blood transfusions. Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel that can affect all parts of the GI tract. Many Crohn's patients experience abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, severe weight loss, anemia, and chronic fatigue.
I was on every medication imaginable. Multiple anabiotic's, steroids, Apriso, 6-MP. I was even on Humira. Despite taking every medication inimaginable, I would suffer another flare in June 2017, resulting in a month-long hospital visit.
This flare honestly was the worst flare of my life. I lost 30 pounds within two weeks, lost the ability to walk on my own, and got so sick that I was unable to consume food without throwing it up.
I couldn't even take my medication orally without throwing up. Since I wasn't progressing like the doctors excepted, I was scheduled for a colonoscopy. I've had many colonoscopies. But this particular colonoscopy has changed my outlook on life forever.
FROM DEVASTATION TO ACTION
During my colonoscopy, the findings were shocking. My colon had become so fragile that during the scope it ruptured. My amazing gastroenterologist stopped the process immediately. I remember waking up and receiving the news that I needed to have emergency surgery.
I was rushed into surgery within 40 minutes. An emergency total colectomy(removal of the colon) was performed, and as a result, a temporary ileostomy was formed.
Two days after my total colectomy, I was rushed into a second surgery because of complications from the first. I was devastated.
I felt so defeated.
At that very moment, I knew immediately that I had to take action.
I had to show my body who's boss.
After my body healed from surgery, I decided that I was done feeling sorry for myself and that I wasn't going to let this disease defeat me any longer. I used two important attributes to get the job done: patience and perseverance.
Hard work pays off
In order to maximize my results, I had to believe that in due time, all of my hard work will pay off, and it did! I never gave up. I was consistent with my diet. I embraced the fact that I now had an ileostomy. I was able to change my outlook on life, transform my body, and most importantly have my ileostomy reversal in 6 months! If I would've kept feeling sorry for myself and didn't make an attempt to improve my quality of life, then I would be still living with an ileostomy.
So yeah, as you can imagine life with Crohn's sucks. I was a 15-year-old kid at the time, so I didn't know how severe the disease was. When I was first diagnosed, I had no idea what to expect. I became extremely depressed as a result.
I would find excuses not to go places with friends, I didn't even pursue relationships because I was so ashamed of what I was going through, and didn't think any girl would accept me. It was indeed a tough time. I remember being in excruciating pain at school one day, and a teacher spotted me with my head down.
Instead of asking what's wrong she told me to sit up. Situations like that angered me because I remember thinking to myself “no one understands what I'm going through.” Situations like that inspired me to give back to our amazing youth.
Hope for the Future
In the future, I plan on opening a community center and my own foundation. I don't want any kid or teenager to go through what I experienced. If I had a facility that I could've gone to as a child, I honestly believe I would've had a better quality of life. And that's the ultimate goal in my life. It’s to ensure that pediatrics and teenagers have a support system, to have the comfort of knowing that they can talk to someone.
One of the worst things a person can do is isolate themselves. Especially if you have Crohns-Colitis, cancer, or any type of chronic illness. It's extremely important that our youth know that they're not alone and that there are many people in the world dealing with these diseases.
How did you turn sickness into strength? Join us for a more intimate conversation on our Friends in the Fight Facebook Group.