Knowing is best. Whoever said that ignorance was bliss must have never spent years of her life waiting for a medical diagnosis. Not knowing fills the gut with anxiety that eats a soul from the inside out. Having answers can hurt, but the alternative promises much worse than pain.
After more than two years trying to make sense of my symptoms, I’ve finally been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. To be fair to my doctors, Crohn’s was one of the first prognoses. But since my body didn’t experience some of the symptoms the illness is known for, my doctors couldn’t be sure. For instance, aside from ulcers, stomach cramps, the occasional bleeding, and constant feeling of tiredness, one of the most common symptoms of Crohn’s involves going to the bathroom dozens of times a day. If I watch my diet—and I always do—I’m spared the horror of using enough toilet paper to destroy a small forest. I’ve experienced all the other symptoms, but my doctors (and me, too) always blamed them on the weird bacteria in my belly, on the chronic pain I’ve lived with for years, on eating the wrong thing, and on life’s random suckiness.
Anyhoo, after way too long treating the bacteria, pumping steroids (without getting the cool muscles, which I think is pure crap) and poking and slicing my innards more than is comfortable for anyone, much of the inflammation is gone… But the ulcers, the exhaustion, and a few other things refuse to offer their farewells. So, yes, I’m Crohnic (aren’t made up words just precious?).
Many people I know (and some I haven’t met) would probably be very upset to get a Crohn’s diagnosis. But I couldn’t be happier, my Wicked Luvs. When one goes from possible leprosy to cancer to Crohn’s, one feels an intense need to kiss the gut-eating bastard on the mouth, and tell him, “Come here, you son of a twisted man-whore, and watch me kick your ass!” I mean, we can try saying that to leprosy and cancer, too, but that pair doesn’t seem to care much for threats.
There is no cure for Crohn’s Disease, and treatment of the symptoms is a lifelong process that includes daily ginormous pills, which come accompanied by possible horrid side effects. I’m hoping to get lucky and not be too affected by them. However, since not treating the illness tends to promise anything from a bleeding gut to cancer, I’m willing to withstand a side effect or three.
If my hair falls out, I’ll wear cool hats. And I think I would look fantastic with a henna crown. If my eyes turn yellow, I will tell everybody that I’m a werewolf… If my skin turns yellow, I will say that I’m part Phyllobates terribilis—who doesn’t love golden poison frogs? Some of the possible side effects are not nearly as glamorous, but I’m sure I’ll think of something if they are to visit.
I know that the idea of adding another chronic illness to my collection seems like a huge burden. Some of you might think that I’m mad, that nothing about this can be good. But trust me… there is a lot of good. The biggest good is that I no longer have to wonder why I’m tired all the time.
I always pay attention to my body, so I assumed that my being tired every hour of every day meant that I needed to sleep more… so I slept more… and I was still so damn exhausted… I started mistrusting my body… but no more. Now I can tell my sexy flesh and bones, I know you’re tired. It’s the Crohnic Bastard (yes, I think I’ll call it that), but you got 7-9 hours of sleep. You are fine. So stop asking for more sleep, and let me write… or there will be a reckoning.
My flesh and bones and moi will be quite all right. We didn’t know what to do against untreated holes in our gut, but we know how to bare our teeth in the face of pain. And we really like hats…
…and woody rainbows…
…and sparkly toes…
I wish to thank those of you who always remind me that I’m not alone. When things look rather grim—and no, I am not talking about looking in the mirror *cough*—few things are as comforting as knowing that we are not paddling alone. Not because we really need someone else in our boat… but because someone is willing to paddle with us, even when we haven’t asked.