Symptoms started on Christmas 2008. Diagnosed on my son's birthday (03/02/2009). Two year battle trying just about every drug there is. Lost the battle (was 120 pounds at the time) and had to have my colon removed. Now I am doing great and will be competing in Triathlons next summer. Have been relatively disease free since my second surgery.
(OR THE "MY IMMUNE SYSTEM IS A TOOL CONJECTURE").
If you know me then you know that I'm not a doctor (I don't even play one on TV). Now, many people ask me, "Just what is Crohn's disease?" Of course I want to sound all intelligent and wow them with my knowledge so usually I give them the medical definition from the Cleveland Clinic's website. But lately I've come to realize I should just explain it the way I best understand it: My immune system is a tool.
Have you ever been a part of a team? Almost always there is that one guy who no one likes. You know, the tool who has an answer for everything. That's my immune system. One day he was checking over things and when he got to my digestive tract he was all like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the hell is going on here? You guys are...
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? SOUNDS LIKE A CHARACTER'S NAME IN A REALLY BAD VAMPIRE MOVIE.
Fistula. Such a strange sounding word. Think of the game "Chutes and Ladders." Do you remember that game? A fistula is like a chute. It forms between your bowel and different organs within your body. Or, it can come right out of your body, say through your stomach. Mine was a peri-anal fistula which means it ended in my anus. Yeah! What fun! Basically puss and other nasty stuff travels the length of the fistula and then exits. Did I mention that you have NO control over when this happens? Say it with me again: Yeah! What fun!
Having a fistula is like having to watch Twilight over and over on a loop. (Yes, I realize this is a rather childish comparison. A fistula is no laughing matter as I soon...
(I'M SORRY, BUT YOU WANT TO SHOVE WHAT WHERE?!?)
We arrive at my colonoscopy appointment with plenty of time to spare. The waiting room is small and stuffed with mostly elderly people. Most of us in that room, in just a short while, will be undergoing the same procedure. It is a bleak, overcast day and I'm content just looking out the window blissfully unaware of the back and forth banter of those around me. Cruelly, shoved in the small corner of the room is a vending machine. Shiny cans of Coke and other goodies on display mock me from behind the glass partition. How badly I want to eat something, drink something.
B-DAY: It is my son's birthday.
Shortly a nurse calls me back and asks me to change into a hospital gown. Within a few minutes another friendly nurse starts an IV...
(Or the "I become unstuck and go" conversion.)
Back in my first two years of college every once in a while on a Saturday we would have swim practice in the ocean. I hated those Saturday mornings. Push-ups and sit-ups in the sand followed by a long open water swim. I didn't mind the physical exertion. And it wasn't even my fear of ocean critters coming up to munch a little on my extremities that was the worst of it - what really bothered me was the water. My lips always ballooned-up and I constantly had to lift my head while swimming to spit out the nasty salt water (mistakenly thinking that each time I spit the vile stuff out the horrible taste in my mouth would go away). My only choice was to keep moving.
So twenty years later the horror of Saturday morning swim practice came...
... WHICH MEANS YOU REALLY DON'T SINCE THIS IS THE ER AND WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.
And so that was my diagnosis. Hemorrhoids. The Terminator ER Dr. explained this to me while wadding up his EXTRA-LARGE examination gloves and throwing them away. Of course, he was wrong. Of course, this misdiagnosis cost me a pretty penny. Look, the ER is a great place when you are having a heart attack or stroke. Or your kid breaks his ankle at the Saturday morning soccer game. But for a guy who has excruciating pain every time he goes to the bathroom, a lot of diarrhea and some pretty high fevers there is not much they can do. At first I didn't understand this. Couldn't they see the agony I was in? Didn't they know my GI Dr. TOLD ME to report there and seek their help? Or know...