“Apples, tomatoes?!” Those were my mother’s words to my pediatrician who had suggested that apples and tomatoes were the reason why my stools were bloody and I was pooping all the time. I was 12 years old. I was getting my blood drawn (for the umpteenth time in one sitting) while she was having this conversation with the pediatrician. The next thing I knew, my mother had gone ballistic and nurses were running to hold her back. I never saw that pediatrician again. And so began a two-year saga of doctor’s visits to discover the cause.
The various diagnoses were IBD, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Juvenile Arthritis, and even severe stress. The final diagnosis at the age of 14 was Ulcerative Colitis–and it affected nearly the entire colon on the left side.
Once UC had been diagnosed, then came the pills — the dreaded steroids and Azulfidine. I was a scrawny late-bloomer. Cute, but too skinny, for the boys. But oh how 60mg of steroids plumped me up. I started getting noticed. The problem was that the plumping continued. Wait a minute! I don’t want to be fat! My clothes were too tight and I told my mom I needed a new wardrobe. My weight had increased from 90 lbs to 130lbs. Concerned about my physical and psychological well-being, she called the doctor who sadly told her not to buy any new clothes because my weight would go down once I’d finished the steroids course. I was gutted. During one visit, my gastro doc told me “After about 20-25 years of having Ulcerative Colitis the likelihood of developing colon cancer significantly increases.” Hey, whoa! Talk about life-changing words. These words impacted all my life decisions from that point on — in a negative way. What was the point of having dreams and aspiration s if I was going DIE!
Fast forward to my 20s. The disease was rarely in remission. On steroids–off steroids. Lots of embarrassing moments of losing bowel control. No one thought to even check to see if I was lactose intolerant (which most African-Americans tend to be). I started reading about the ostomy process, because I was just sick and tired of all this sh*% — literally and figuratively. My gastro doc refused. “You’re too young. What about your physical relationships? You’re not sick enough.” What?!! I didn’t give a rat’s ass about my age or whether a guy would get grossed out by an ostomy bag. And as for being sick enough, how sick do you have to be for goodness sake. This ulcerative colitis business was affecting my overall quality of life. Besides, I thought it best remove the damn thing particularly with the looming threat of colon cancer. I got married in my late 20s and disclosed fully to my husband prior to marriage all about my having UC and its effects. I have four beautiful kids–n one with digestive issues.
Today, in my late 40s. I’m still battling. On steroids–off steroids. I have uplifted hands in thanks to God that colon cancer hasn’t come knocking at my door.
This is the first time I’ve thought of joining any kind of UC group. I’m interested to learn about any particular diets you’ve found helpful in alleviating symptoms and preventing flare-ups. Please remember I’m in Africa, and I don’t have access to any frou-frou organic products and supplements. This is a tropical climate with lots of fruits (pineapple, banana, papaya, and mango) and starches (rice, potato, yam, breads). The veggies are fantastic, so I’m good there.
Submitted in the Colitis Venting Area by: “My Lagos Life”
I’m uninsured and live in West Africa, where the healthcare is poor. I fly back to the U.S. two times a year for doctor visits—paying cash for everything. While in Africa, I pretty much manage myself. When I flare up, I put myself on a steroid course of 40mg and taper myself off. I currently take Apriso and get a yearly colonoscopy. I have a new gastro doc who wants to put me in a trial this summer to help stop the steroid yo-yo-ing.