The Backstory (My “Health Journey,” Part 1)

My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”

Health… I know, I know.

BORING!!

I asked my sister earlier today what I should blog about. She said everyone writes about health, and I should write about ice cream instead.

She only said that because we were driving home from a shopping trip, and there’s this little ice cream place that we stopped at… they have the most amazing soft ice cream (who am I kidding – ALL soft ice cream is amazing!) – such a rich, almost buttery (butter makes everything better!), smooth, flavorful ice cream…

And good prices, too! The large is less than $3. The sign said that they also sell it by the pint, which was $3.50. I won’t lie… I was tempted. I was VERY tempted. But I restrained myself and just got the large. I still wish I hadn’t been so self controlled. I should’ve gotten the pint.

I mean, that is, of course, uh… I shouldn’t have gotten the pint, but… (I should’ve gotten the pint!!)

So what was I supposed to be writing about anyway?

Oh. Yeah. Health…

Well, now that you’ve heard firsthand just how perfectly I’ve got my act together when it comes to eating healthy…

Unlike many people my age, unfortunately I actually do have a “health journey” to be written about, and I’ve been making halfhearted attempts these past few days to start writing about it for y’all.

I didn’t know where to start, though. Still don’t, actually. But here goes anyway:

I had a lot going for me as a kid. I was born *mostly* naturally (they induced my mom’s labor) at a hospital, and breastfed as a baby. I grew up in the country, so plenty of running around barefoot and playing in the dirt (we didn’t have a computer or TV of any kind until I was well into my teens, so us kids played outside!) Our diet wasn’t ideal (very heavy on bread, pasta, and sweets), but my mom cooked a lot from scratch, which automatically cuts out so many chemicals… We also raised a lot of our own meat, and grew a large garden every year.

And I was pretty healthy growing up. Except for a tapeworm when I was about 8 years old (I know… gross!), and that time I got a piece of fencing wire stuck in my foot, I was pretty much able to avoid doctor’s offices altogether.

When I started college in 2009, it introduced a whole new level of stress and busyness into my life, and I really treated myself badly during that time. The crazy, stressful schedule was damaging enough to my health, but I also wasn’t eating right – or really, eating much at all. I kinda survived on sugar and chocolate. Plus, I was chronically dehydrated. But I got good grades in all my classes, and I was making money on the side teaching piano and playing at churches! So I didn’t care much about what I was doing to my health… (foolish girl!)

It was my last year in college that things started going downhill. I got an ear infection in the fall of 2011, and was put on antibiotics for that. While I was at the doctor getting the antibiotics, he told me that there was this new vaccine out to protect against cervical cancer, and that all girls my age were supposed to get it. It was supposed to be three injections over the course of 6 months, and he gave me the first shot that day. I’m lazy, though, so I never went back for the other two shots. Now when I read the horror stories about the Gardasil vaccine… I’m very thankful I never went back for the other two shots! And I can’t help but wonder about that first shot – whether it factored into what happened next.

Within the next few months, I started having digestive problems. I was in my last semester at college. I was trying to keep my grades up and plan a solo organ recital. My grandmother was dying of brain cancer. I had churches to play at and students to teach every week. Taking care of myself was not very high on my priority list.

When my regular doctor said I should go see a specialist about these digestive issues, I decided I didn’t have the time for that, and I could just live with the symptoms. And I did. For several more months. My grandmother died. School was still there. Life still had to be lived. I programmed, practiced, and performed an hour and 15 minute long organ concert that spring. I finished the semester and graduated with high honors. Life went on.

It was later that summer when, over the course of about a week, my digestive issues suddenly got much worse. One Saturday night in August of 2012 I ended up in the ER, scared to death about how much blood I was losing from a place you don’t want blood to come out of, and in a great deal of pain from stomach cramps. They did a cat scan and grilled me with questions about whether I had eaten out recently, traveled out of town recently, drank water from a questionable source, etc, etc. The answer was no to all of the above. So they sent me home with some potent antibiotics and instructions to stay on a clear liquid diet for a few days.

I got home in the early AM, dozed off on the couch for a few hours, then dragged myself to church. (Because I take my job far too seriously). I muddled my way through two services, then drove home and spent the next week on the couch and in the bathroom.

I lost about 15 pounds within that week. The bleeding stopped, but the stomach cramps and diarrhea did not. I called the specialist and was given an appointment for October.

I was going to be traveling in October. I called and rescheduled for the end of November.

Over the next couple months I just got used to being in pain on a daily basis. I went on a road trip across the country with my brother and sister. I kept playing at churches and teaching piano.

When I finally had my appointment with the specialist, he seemed surprised at how long I’d just been “living with” my symptoms, and scheduled me for a colonoscopy within the week. I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but was smart enough to know that something had to be done.

So a few days later, there I was. Getting (as my siblings to this day refer to it) “a tube stuck up my butt.”

I came home with 2 more bottles of antibiotics, my first course of steroids (Prednisone), and a big bottle of Asacol – the “long term” medication that the doctor told me I would be on for “a few years. At least.” (In other words – forever. Ok. We’ll just see about that…).

And… a diagnosis:

Ulcerative Colitis.

Love, N.

P.S. Obviously, to be continued.

Edit: Make sure to check out parts two and three of this story!

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