Have you ever had a dream where you were running from danger, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t get away?
I have had that dream too, but for me that dream became a reality. In December of 2002I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. What is Ulcerative Colitis? Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. It gets its name from the fact that it leads to ulcers and inflammation of the colon. The inflammation of the colon leads to terrible symptoms like explosive and nonstop diarrhea, rectal bleeding, loss of appetite, nausea, sever cramping, dehydration and more. With what you just read, you can imagine how hard it is, for those of us whose lives have been touched by UC, to talk about what we are going through. People with UC suffer in silence. Another disease that falls under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease is Crohn’s Disease. UC and Crohn’s Disease are very similar.They produce similar symptoms, they are both autoimmune diseases and they are both treated with similar medications.
One of the biggest differences between UC and Crohn’s is, UC’s inflammation is limited to the colon only, while Crohn’s can affect any part of the gastrointestinal system.With UC the inflammation isonlyto the lining of the colon, while the inflammation from Crohn’s can extend deeper into the layers of the bowel.Technically,neither of these diseases are curable although radical surgery to remove the entire colon, or large intestine, is considered a cure for UC, since UC does not extend beyond the colon. For 12 years I limped along with my Ulcerative Colitis. During that time my doctor tried many many different medications to try to calm the raging inflammation in my colon. Unfortunately, I never did achieve remission during all of that time. While there was a lot of suffering over that time, I can’t say that the entire 12 years were misery. Despite my lingering symptoms I was able to fall in love, get married and have two beautiful little girls. I also got a Master’s Degree in Education, started a corporate training company and a charity. Knowing that I needed to do all I could to stay in shape I worked out 6 days a week and developed a very muscular and athletic frame. A stranger who saw me on the street would never know, by looking at me, that I was chronically ill.I remember being pulled over for speeding one day. The cop came up to the car and asked me why I was speeding.
When I told him that I was rushing home to get to a bathroom because I had Ulcerative Colitis, he said, “What is Ulcerative Colitis?”I got the ticket.
A hallmark of IBD are periodic flare-ups .Despite never achieving remission,I did have some times where my symptoms were at bay. But inevitably, those times would come to an abrupt and painful end. I make my career in public speaking and teaching and I can’t even count the number of times that I had to run off of a stage or out of a training room to get to a bathroom. I can remember one time when I was teaching a computer class at a large pharmaceutical company when I completely lost control of my bowels. The embarrassment I felt,as I stood in front o fmy students, completely soiled, was dreadful. During severe flare-ups I would have to skip parties, get-together s, ski trips, hockey games and more. I would spend hours in the bathroom going back and forth 20 times in a day. I would be weak from constant bleeding and dehydration. I would have to endure the indignity of standing in a supermarket checkout line with two bags of adult diapers, which I would wear every day.Even when I was not having terrible symptoms, the fear of them coming back was always hanging over me. Long car rides brought anxiety. I dreaded going to the beach. Going to amusement parks gave me a burning feeling over my entire body.
These are times I should have been enjoying with my wife and daughters, but Ulcerative Colitis stole a lot of that joy.
By Justin Mirigliani