I started drinking coffee on Christmas day after not having had any for four month. I haven’t drank or eaten a lot of things for the last four months. Since February of last year, I started having digestive trouble. As weeks turned into months, things grew progressively worse, and I changed my diet to try and address the problem. Nothing helped for very long.
I can’t remember exactly when the symptoms started, but I do remember that on our trip to Key West I noticed that I had to go to the bathroom a lot, which wasn’t easy as a tourist walking around in unfamiliar territory. A couple of months later, I heard the news that my job would be ending on December 31, 2009. That’s news that would make anyone’s stomach flip and flop, and I began to wonder if my troubles where related to stress. At the end of May, the kids and I went on the first of three camping trips. Once again, I realized how tied to the bathroom I had become since I had to run from the campsite to the campground’s restrooms whenever I needed to go. In between these travel times, I experienced miserable days at work (even after my job fears were resolved), I missed days from work at home sick, I made several trips to the doctor, I suffered periods of interrupted sleep, and I lost twenty pounds.
The problem persisted throughout the summer, and in September I started a diet meant to control the symptoms of irritable bowl syndrome. Desperately hoping I’d found the answer to what had become an almost debilitating illness, I followed that diet religiously. I gave up eating red meat and only ate chicken and fish. I learned the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber and I made sure I ate the soluble fiber first, followed by the insoluble fiber in moderation. I ate only cooked fruits and vegetables. In addition to giving up all caffeinated drinks, I stopped eating all dairy products. Throughout these months, my partner, Frank, was amazing. He completely reworked the meals he prepared. He learned about the IBS-friendly diet alongside me and he was as supportive as anyone could have been. He did what he could to help me eat correctly while we were on our trip to Puerto Rico and New York (also difficult, were-is-the-bathroom travel experiences).
The first week in December, I started waking up every hour after midnight to go to the bathroom. The diet wasn’t working at all. I was losing sleep, and I was miserable. My sister had had enough, so she found the name of gastrointestinal doctor and she encouraged me to make an appointment. The first opening was on my birthday, December 22. Somehow, with the help of Imodium and Lomotil, I made it until the day of the appointment. Blood work, lab reports, and a Christmas Eve colonoscopy revealed that I had ulcerative colitis. The treatment? A round of Prednizone and two Lielda pills taken once a day. The doctor recommended no dietary restrictions. When he gave me the diagnosis and the treatment plan, I cried tears of joy.
On this New Year’s Day, I realize I am moving into a new normal. Things aren’t back to the old normal, but I can already tell that I’m moving toward a new normal. This new normal is so much better than the frustration, fear, and misery of this past year. I am full of relief, hope, and thanksgiving. I pray that others will notice my new-found sense of joy. Through God’s grace, I also commit to allowing last year’s trial to increase my level of awareness and empathy for others who are experiencing their own illnesses.