I worked my way through college with a full time job and an apartment in the city.
In late 2006, while in graduate school and teaching in the inner city, I started having stomach pains with mucousy stool and went to the doctor. He said I was constipated and told me to begin a high fiber diet. When I complained of the blood that began coming with the weird stools I was told that I had hemorrhoids, which I completely didn’t understand since there were no bloody veins coming out of my hoo-ha. It was three more visits before I learned you could have internal hemorrhoids. I was given some drug that you inserted rectally. This did nothing.
The pains came and went, but my ability to have a normal stool simply went.
I remember going to my cousin’s baby shower and spending most of it in the bathroom, horribly embarrassed as women came in and out. The 40 minute drive back to my house was agonizing as I unsuccessfully tried to hold in what needed to come out. I prayed to God my fiancé was not home to witness my humiliation.
In 2007, I got married. My symptoms were on hiatus. Six months later, surprise, I was pregnant. I was teaching at a new school finishing up my graduate degree and having a normal pregnancy. But then all hell broke loose.
Five months into my pregnancy I started having severe abdominal pain, constant bloody diarrhea, and extreme weakness, likely from dehydration.
I called my mother in Boston and asked her to come to me in Philadelphia, as I didn’t think my husband could handle being my nurse. She was shocked to see that in my six month of pregnancy I had lost 12 lbs and could barely get off of the couch except to run to the bathroom. When the pain became unbearable, I went to the ER. They diagnosed me with constipation and gave me gallons of GoLightly to drink. The bathroom was on the other side of the hospital floor; past the nurse’s station and 12 other patients. I made the trek about 15 times that night. It was a humiliating and unjust punishment.
At the gastroenterologist’s office the Dr. and his intern took turns examining me internally. I began to learn that modesty was something the sick cannot afford. But, by that point any lady like personae I may have had was in the past. Every conversation I had was with a medical staff person and all I spoke of was blood, vomit, the consistency of my crap and the amount of time I spent on the toilet. After an endoscopy, I was placed on enemas and drugs. Drugs that they promised wouldn’t harm my daughter. Every ultrasound revealed a thriving little fetus inside my ravaged little body. The suppositories aimed at lessening the inflammation didn’t work. Anti-inflammation pills came next.
Day after day, I cried on the floor of my bathroom scared of so many things: losing my job, losing my husband, losing my life.
I moaned with this pain I could not handle, I prayed for it to end, I didn’t care how; I just needed it to end. My fear was that it never would.
Jen’s story is now entered into the 2011 Ulcerative Colitis Writing Contest!!! You Can Join too, click here for details
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