This post appeared on IBD Baggage Claim.
For the past 6 years, a little monster named ulcerative colitis has lived in my gut. Inflammatory Bowel Disease that caused swelling, bleeding, ulcers and cramping in my large intestine. Up until 2015, this little monster was no more than a minor pest that I could wipe out with oral medication. But in January of 2015, the monster turned into a major pest.
The new year came with new challenges. I accepted a different position at work with overall larger goals. At the same time, the monster became fierce, unruly and BIG. It quickly crushed all goals and ambition by putting my life on hold… for an entire 12 months! After numerous hospital visits, my hope was that I’d be in remission by June. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, actually just the opposite. My hair fell out, my weight dropped and my energy level plummeted.
By September it was clear this monster was relentless, causing countless leave-of-absences from work. I tried a different course of treatment which included many scopes and many more doctors. But after talking with my most trusted health care professional, I decided to tackle the monster head on by process of elimination.
Ostomy surgery was a reality and likely my best option. I chose to take back control of my life, so on October 31, 2015 I had my entire colon removed. You can’t have colitis if you don’t have a colon, right? So in a sense, I’m cured. But now I have a whole new set of obstacles in front of me. Life with an ileostomy.
I wear a bag on my stomach where my small intestine has been pulled through an opening to eliminate waste. It’s sexy, extremely attractive and makes me feel really confident… NOT! But I’m healthy and I’m learning to cope.
2015 was also my year of love, support, perspective, growth, and positivity. Here’s why:
- I have learned more about the power of optimism and facing challenges with tenacity and grace.
- I have received massive encouragement and compassion from nurses, doctors, family, and friends.
- I have seen firsthand the humanity in total strangers, as they extended a caring hand.
- I have learned to roll with the punches and lean on others for support.
In the ugliest of scenarios, I’ve attempted to keep it real. Although 2015 was difficult for me, it has probably been difficult for a lot of people. In a sense, everyone is fighting some sort of battle. We all come with some sort of “extra baggage” that shapes us, mine just happens to be a bit more literal.
There are more important things in life other than work and making money. I care about my mind and body, taking time out for health. I'm open and honest about what’s going on because it minimizes awkwardness. And most importantly, I show more kindness and empathy toward others, taking into consideration their “extra baggage.”