Stuck In Limbo A Long Way From Home

Nick with father

Nick with his father

Meet Nick:

I am 22 years old and just graduated from college in June 2012. I received my commission into the Army through ROTC at a medical service officer. I was diagnosed a few weeks after moving to my first station and am now in limbo trying to get better.

Colitis Symptoms:

Blood
Urgency to go to the bathroom

UC Story:

I graduated college in June 2012 after 4 years of having the time of my life. I went on an Army ROTC scholarship and always excelled, especially physically. Running has always been my thing and I absolutely love it. I did my first marathon in the New Mexico desert with a 35lbs ruck sack with my best friend in college and once ran a 10 mile race in 1hr flat. Those days seem long gone for me however.

5 days after I graduated and commissioned into the Army as a 2LT I left to Fort Lewis WA to be a Cadre member for Cadets before I would leave to my basic course in San Antonio for the medical service ironically. Within two weeks of being here I had blood in my stool, and a lot of it. I was terrified to say anything and did not want to be taken out as a Cadre member since we were so busy so I trudged along. Eventually I told someone and they convinced me to get help where I saw a doctor at the hospital. They had me do suppositories 3x a day…thing is when you are living in the field and there is no bathroom around or privacy it is difficult so I couldn’t really treat myself. I had a colonoscopy and the doc determined I had colitis. I have since done prednisone numerous times which works but I flare up when I come off. The side effects are terrible also. When my time here was up I would leave to San Antonio, but now I couldn’t get medically cleared to leave because of my m eds and I couldn’t take the Physically fitness test. I went from never getting below the maximum score to not being able to run a block without feeling like I was going to go in my pants. The worst part was people thought I was just making excuses to get out of it which really was embarrassing because how could I tell them what was really wrong with me.

I eat gluten free which I have no clue if it works…it doesn’t feel like it does. I have barely had a drink since college, I don’t eat any sweets, or milk, and avoid foods that don’t digest. I take steroid enemas which helps but is not a solution. I have even tried grass seed enemas. The hardest part is my family and everyone I know live on the opposite side of the country and colitis isn’t something you want to tell your peers about. I hate going to the doctor because he is either late or talks to me for 5 minutes without offering me much hope of continuing so I am trying to find ways to get better. Staying busy seems to help because I don’t dwell on it but I have limited ways to keep distracted because it is the glaring obstacle in my way of moving on with my life. I need to get cleared to move on and if I don’t I would likely be discharged. The doc said most people are discharged but I have met people that were able to keep their symptoms under control and stayed in.

Where I’d like to be in 1 year:

With my first unit and without a medical hold bold in red next to my name

Colitis Medications and Supplements:

Pred
fish oil
metamucil
Boswellia
grasseed
lialda
steroid enema

written by Nick

submitted in the colitis venting area




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8 Responses to Stuck In Limbo A Long Way From Home

  1. Adam
    Adam November 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Hey Nick,

    First and foremost, I want to wish you and the rest of the UC’ers of the world who are part of the service a super huge congrats on graduating and pursuing your dream. I’m sure it was much hard work to get to the point where you’re at today, and most definitely you’ve already made it past some serious tuff stuff to get where you are, and that’s something to be super proud of. I’m sure your father and the rest of your friends and family feel the same! So congrats on all that.

    Also, I just did some digging around in the iHaveUC basement because I remember quite a few other UC’ers who have posted stories who like you are also involved in the military. Here is what I came up with:

    A story by a UC’er who was deployed to the Middle East unaware of what the UC troubles were: https://www.ihaveuc.com/ulcerative-colitis-in-the-military/

    A story by “T-Bone” who also included a pretty sweet picture of him sitting on a tank: https://www.ihaveuc.com/back-and-forth/

    And here’s a story from Chris who wrote back in September, 2012: https://www.ihaveuc.com/well-this-is-gonna-suck/

    Here’s some totally outside the box thinking, and you do what you want with it. It has to do with those who think you are trying to get out of things and making excuses, when in-fact UC is the reason. Hearing about that situation bugs the heck out of me. It really does. I remember reading your story a few nights ago on my phone before heading off to bed and telling my wife that scenario you’ve gone through. It’s a very tough situation, and of course all of us UC’ers know darn well you’re not trying to get out of anything. Of course you’re not.

    But, the reality is that the “non-UC’er” population of the world really doesn’t have a clue, unless they literally sit in the bathroom and inspect the toilet bowl before you flush it…and that’s probably not practical.

    So my thinking on this has for several years been pretty simple. When the time presents itself, ask others how much they know about UC. Maybe you have a close friend in the military, someone you confide in on other personal topics for example. These people most of the time are interested in learning more. More about life, more about medical things, and I’m certain they’ll be interested in learning more about you and what you’re going through. You don’t need to go hardcore and start telling them that at times you’re killing whales in the toilet bowl. But maybe some answers to their questions might liberate you from keeping it all under wraps, and my hope would be that it would relieve you of some stressful situations in the long-run.

    Of course I’m not in your situation, and I’ve never been in the military, so I’m not sure how the politics works there, but I’ve always been happy with telling others about what’s happening in my medical life if others are interested. Might benefit you and those situations as well when people are double guessing your motives/health. (And if people still think you’re trying to get out of physical activities after that…give them my phone number and I’ll send them some pictures)

    All the best to you Nick, you’re incredible, and how the heck you made it so many miles with 35 pounds on your back I’ll never be able to comprehend. Un-Friggin-Believalbe!

    -Adam

  2. Justin
    Justin November 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Hey Nick! Im so sorry your going through all this, especially being in the service i cant imagine how hard it is on you. Don’t be afraid to tell people about the uc. I was so embarrassed to say anything about it to friends and co-workers but i eventually started explaining it to people. Youd be surprised how supportive people are. Keep your head up and stay strong man. And i hope you stsrt feeling better

  3. dave evans November 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Nick–my son is a doc in the air force (major) stationed in Germany and he tells me they are seeing/recognizing alot of colitis in the guys in Afghan—think the stress, diet, etc has to do with the flares–anyhow i think if you go to your/a GI doc he’ll be more receptive/helpful than you may think. Cant kick it by yourself–gotta go thru the protocol so can get a long lasting treatment–i ve been on remicaid for over three years and mine is very much in control. Food for thoughts–absolutely no red pepper ie cayenne so i lay off any red dyes, no flour, sugar etc. I do eat steak and baked [potato with real butter (lay off all dairy otherwise) bacon eggs–i ve found the grease is good and potatoes have nicotine both of which are calming on the gut–very little of the things good for your like fresh fruit veggies etc-i do have one banana each am. also no carbonated beverages (but I do drink a couple of guiness’ a nite. Note-my son does not recommend, condone or approve of my diet!!! of course he doesnt have UC either (yet) Best of luck to you and thank you for your service!

  4. bev November 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Nick…have you tried a good probiotic yet? Try one. I got into remission and am off all the meds. They can take time to work, even a month or more, so don’t bail too soon. Try one that has at least 50 billion strains. You could feel so much better that you don’t even need meds down the road.

    Cheers:)

  5. Zack November 8, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Nick,

    I am an Army Officer in Hawaii who has been dealing with similar issues. I was diagnosed back in 2007 while at school and was mostly under control except for a flare up during Ranger School and now most recently since eating something bad in Afghanistan (I think it was some watermelon). This current flare up has lasted over a year and has been especially vicious. I am also responding well to a prednisone/lialda mix but like you I seem to flare again as I try to taper off the prednisone.

    A few thoughts based on things I’ve learned in the Army dealing with UC:

    1. The military health system is not responsive unless you are extremely proactive about managing your own health. As a med service officer, I’m sure you already knew that, but I am the type of person that does not like to get help unless things are extremely bad (that’s the way of the Army) but I quickly changed my perspective when I realized nobody cared about my own health except for me. I started calling the GI clinic to the point of annoyance to move up my appointments and describing to them in detail how bad my symptoms were. If I hadn’t I would have had to wait over a month for a colonoscopy when I was feeling dizzy, weak, and fatigued from loss of blood and probably should have been in the emergency room.

    2. Absolutely demand to change your doctor. If you want to avoid confrontation with the doctor himself, demand (respectfully) that you see another GI doctor with the receptionist. If he’s not paying attention to you he’s not doing his job. I foresee you getting grief about changing your doctor but it’s your right and stand your ground firm on that issue. You deserve the attention.

    3. I think Adam hit it on the nose when he made the point about opening up a little bit about the UC. I know first hand how embarrassing it is to have an uncontrolled bowel movement. Trust me, I had more than I care to count in Afghanistan. I’m talking over a hundred. I kept it pretty well under wraps over there, but then again anything in Afghanistan goes depending on where you’re at so it was always easy to play off. When I got back and still had the same problems and couldn’t blame the Afghan food anymore, I was just radically honest about everything with those who needed to know. In the long run, it led to a lot of understanding when I was constantly looking for bathrooms on runs for PT, or when I had to cut a run short and hop in the shower. The more jokes I ended up making about it, the more comfortable everybody ended up being with the situation and they saw that I wasn’t just making it up.

    4. I know you are anxious to get to your duty station and begin your Army career but this time at Lewis in limbo may actually be the best thing for you. Dealing with a UC flare and trying to complete an Army School or be a PL, XO, staff member, etc. is damn near impossible. The cycle of stress, lack of relaxation time, and constant demands will just make things worse. I know it’s hard but try to remember that the Army will still be there even if you are delayed. You won’t be of any use to the Army until you get your symptoms under control… and believe me, they will use you when they need you.

    I don’t mean to preach to you with those points, I really just hope that I can impart some lessons learned and maybe you can avoid some pain and confusion based on my painful and confusing experiences.

    Dude you are not alone in either your situation or your frustration. If you want, email me at newjerseyinflames@gmail.com. That goes for any other vets/active duty (or just anybody interested in UC in the military) out there that have any tips or just want to talk. I know something that is confusing to me is disability ratings. I think this is especially pertinent to those of us that risk separation due to our symptoms when the symptoms seem to be service caused or service exacerbated.

    Best,
    Zack

  6. Nick
    Nick November 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Thanks Adam and everyone else. I appreciate it greatly. Zack I will email you

    • Adam
      Adam November 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

      You bet Nick!
      Best of luck to you moving forward!

  7. Paul December 19, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    Hi Nick,

    Its nice to hear someone my age is got the same disease, but i have still to get my colonoscopy my doctor know its Irratable bowel syndrome but doesnt know if its Crohns or UC, how do you handle the pain? i cant handle pain overall, but the pain im getting is really sore and so sore that i need to lie on my bed on a speciic side cause if i turn on my sore side i hit he roof.

    I would like to keep in touch with you and others my age who are going through this: pabr522@hotmail.co.uk

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