Six Years Later

-written by Katryna

July 2002.

I am sleeping on the sofa in the living room as it is next to the bathroom. I have just had my first accident at 23 years old. Humiliated, I resolve to see my doctor in the morning as this food poisoning is out of control.

November 2003

I am signed off from my second job for two weeks as my wrists are killing me, and the wonderful folks at Amex are worried I have developed repetitive strain injury from using the computer. Full pay though, so I’m not complaining! I am napping during the day between jobs. This is normal right? I’m working long hours, of course I’m tired. And I guess it doesn’t help that I was up half the night on the toilet. I’m definatly allergic to prawns which is most annoying as I love them.

February 2004

I collapse as I’m walking to work. My hip just gives way on me. A stranger has to help me up. My wrists are sore and how I’ve managed to poison myself again is anybody’s guess!

September 2004

This is getting beyond a joke. I am sleeping more often than not. I’m pooing more than I sleep.

October 2004

I’ve just got home from holiday. Portugal for a friends 30th, then Dublin. What a bloody disaster. Portugal was great – 5 days of eating my body weight in seafood (I don’t care that I’m allergic, it was FABULOUS!) and drinking obscene amounts of alcohol. By the time I got to Dublin I felt like I was about to die. Not good, seeing as I was there to support my friend who was running the marathon. I am officially the worst friend ever, as I spent the entire time in the hotel asleep and pooing blood. Lots and lots of blood. I have spent a fortune on teary phone calls to my mum as I’m freaking out. Something is not right. Food poisoning does not do this to people. Neither does a hangover.

I see my doctor who fobs me off again, telling me it must be something I’ve eaten. I’ve had enough. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I make an emergency appointment, poo in a sandwich bag, and dump it on her desk as I enter the room stating “look at that and tell me it’s food poisoning!” To say she was disgusted is an understatement. She goes on to say “I’m sure it’s nothing to serious, it’s not like you’ve got cancer!” I’m flabbergasted. I run out of her office in tears. By the time I get home I shaking with rage. I write a letter to the practice manager, complaining about the way I was treated. A week later I receive an apology and an appointment with the Digestive Diseases department at the hospital for a colonoscopy.

January 2005

I have Ulcerative Colitis. Pan Colitis. Whatever that means.

February 8th 2011

I sit at my computer, writing this in a haze of confusion. This is because I have just got out of hospital. I have spent the past six years in denial and I have just woken up to the fact that I am living with a chronic illness.
My disease has never been controlled. This is mainly because I have not regularly taken my medication. I get to a point where my symptoms are under control and then I play Russian Roulette with my health, I stop my meds. Convince myself that I don’t need them. My symptoms are under control, I’m really not that unwell. I’m overweight (I’m not lucky enough to “suffer” from weight loss). Fast forward 3 months, I’m back on the steroids as I’m pooing blood 20 times a day. You would think that I would learn my lesson after the second or third time right? In this time I have had a child (lost 35 lbs whilst pregnant, silent flare?) been hospitalized whilst on holiday in America (thank god I had travel insurance), Ran my own restaurant, which was perfect as I could work around my disease, lost the business due to the recession, got a job then lost the job as I had a flare and couldn’t work. Signed off work and am now living off state benefits as I’m deemed not capable of working – m y how the mighty have fallen. I also manged to get myself knocked up again – it turns out the contraceptive pill doesn’t work when you’re having a flare, lost another 35lbs whilst pregnant, and had a terrible flare at the start of the pregnancy. Taking prednislone whilst pregnant was awful, worrying about the effects it might have on my baby but knowing that the benefits outweighed the risks. He’s perfect by the way.

Four weeks after he was born, I go into another flare. I’m literally running to the toilet with him attached to my boob. Three in the morning, my darling son on the bathroom floor, screaming with hunger, as I’m cleaning up the blood and poop. My four year old daughter wakes up, comes into the bathroom, bleary eyed, stating “Oh no mummy, not again.” and then takes herself back to bed. THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

I’m exclusively breast feeding and my son is constantly attached. He never seems satisfied. The health visitor comes to weigh him. He has dropped weight. “How is this possible, he is ALWAYS feeding?” Never for a second do I think that my disease is to blame.

I see my consultant and am put on 40mg of prednislone, reducing after a week. I finish week one. I’m still bleeding. I decide to call for advice as it seems silly to reduce. He tells me to come straight to the hospital. It should be working. They need to test my blood. I never for a second think I’ll be admitted.

Day 3 of intravenous steroids. They are not working. Sigmoidoscopy reveals severely damaged colon. I need surgery. WTF??? I feel fine.

A lifeline. Clinical trial of two drugs, Cyclosporin verses Infliximab (remecaid). They want to see the long term benefits of them. Which one I get is decided by computer. I have to stop breastfeeding at once. It is the only thing that might save my colon and there is no guarantee it will work. Am I in? The computer chooses Infliximab. We wait and see.

Day 7. My inflammation markers are steadily coming down. I’m not out of the woods yet but it’s looking hopeful.

Day 9. I feel TERRIBLE. Even though the bleeding has stopped, the frequency is dramatically reduced and the stool is forming, I feel worse than I did when I was admitted. Constantly tired, confused, metallic taste in my mouth, my legs don’t work, my head is foggy. It’s strange because my flare is under control.

Day 13. I can go home. Hospital has been such a positive experience. The girl in the bed next to me was admitted with a severe UC flare the week after I arrived. She was newly diagnosed. She was freaking out. I was there for her. Listened to her. Advised her. Became her friend. I am convinced that I was supposed to be there for her. Through her, I have finally accepted my diagnosis. I respect that I have a chronic illness. It has taken being separated from my children for me to wake up to the fact that I have to take this illness seriously. I have to look after myself or how the hell am I supposed to look after them? I still feel terrible. How I’ve managed to write this I don’t know. I’m glad that I did though.

Katryna’s story is now entered into the 2011 Ulcerative Colitis Writing Contest!!! You Can Join too, click here for details

5 thoughts on “Six Years Later”

  1. I am Ray Shell Katryna’s Dad; her story has helped me to understand the nature of her illness….obviously as her Dad I should have done my own research and I haven’t and there is no excuse she is my Daughter.

    This story brings home to mejust how much she has suffered and on a positive note how brave and strong she is because for the most part she doesn’t complain she just gets on with her life and its take her being hospitalized and this story to bang it home to me just what she’s dealing with so i salute her and congratualate her for this strong essay about what she’s been dealing with.

    Ray Shell

  2. Hi Katryna,

    I’ve been thinking about your story all night, and you’re really an amazing person to come so far with this disease, and especially to be helping others like that girl in the hospital out now! That is so great, and something to be very proud of. The loneliness that so many people face when they are diagnosed and dealing with the symptoms quietly without telling anyone is possibly the hardest part, and for sure you made a big difference in her life. I’m sure eveyone with UC is proud of you too. You rock!

  3. Thank you Adam for your reply. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I was supposed to be in hospital to meet my new friend (I’m not going to name her!). Talking to her and helping her understand and appreciate her diagnosis really helped me to appreciate and come to terms with my diagnosis – six years later! I agree that if I’d had somebody to discuss my feelings with, compare stool frequency and levels of solidness, moan about urgency and generally talk crap with, it may have made my journey a little less fraught. Oh and Dad – Thank you for your words. You have NOTHING to feel guilty about but I am pleased that you have a better understanding now. I should have talked to you about things more but it’s embarrassing talking about poo – especially with your dad!!! Love you. xxxx

  4. HiKatryna, you are so brave and what a great mother you are to have tried to breast feed your son when you were dealing with this whole crazy disease. I breast fed my son for one year and that was challenging enough by itself! as I don’t have UC but my 6 yr. old son does. Isn’t it absurd how your doctor kept telling you, “i’m sure it’s nothing serious, it’s not like you have cancer!” well, she was not the one crapping out blood uncontrollably and in severe pain, total lack of strengh, and not understanding what is going on with you all at the same time. I have heard this senario several times, and, even my son’s previous PCP kept saying at first, “I’m sure it’s nothing to serious, but, let’s go and see a gastro to be sure. I’m sure the gastro well just check him out and he will be fine.” well, he wasn’t fine and he has had his share of hospital stays himself. I really hope the Remicade continues to help you and you can adjust to it where it makes you feel better overall. My son is due for his 7th remicade treatment tomorrow morning. it has been working pretty good for him, but, no miracles yet. we just have to kep praying and hoping. take care. Linda.

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