How IBD Took away and Gave me my life back
In a hospital bed was where I laid my heavy head, wondering if this would be the scenery for my 21st birthday, then my inner voice seemed to give me a stern scolding “You have bigger things to worry about! For goodness sake you’re in a hospital bed to begin with!” It’s true I did have bigger things to think worry. Why did I faint? Why was I so weak? Why was I so tired all the time and more importantly and most embarrassingly why had the bathroom become my most frequently visited part of the house?? No I didn’t want to think of those things at ALL. After all I was 20, had a beautiful a girl friend, just completed and came second in a Meteorology course in Barbados and was finally home back with loving family and friend s and not to mention it was my 21st Birthday!
My doctor came to my bedside and interrupted my thoughts. He had some papers in his hand I could see that he had gotten them from the internet because of the long URL peeping through the folds. He looked at me then became very focused. He began as if rehearsed, “Roger, we have looked at your colonoscopy and from what we have seen coupled with your symptoms, we are thinking it is Ulcerative Colitis.” Back then that meant nothing to me. Heck! I had never spent more than 3 hours in a hospital. So these words, colonoscopy, “Ulcerative congitis” or whatever it was, was for some sick person who is supposed to be in a hospital, certainly not me. I came back to reality after realizing the doctor was waiting for my reacting. I guess I was just staring at him. I asked what does that mean, he then went into some talk about not being for sure and I would have to go out of the island (Nevis) to get a biopsy and have my colon properly examined .
What was all this?! I was puzzled, confused, frustrated. All I wanted to do was go home. I had spent six days in the hospital already and to me, that was six days too many. I didn’t know what to think. Everything was too much to take on, and to make it worse nobody seemed to have answers, “Nobody knows how it is cause”, “It might be a virus”, “You should have been eating better”, “No cure”, “You will have to be flown off to be sure”…
What ? Just a few days ago I was in the gym with that same doctor even though I was bleeding, feeling weak and I barely made it to the bathroom more times than I could count, I just figured I would get better. However here I was, things had gone worse I had fainted, I was in a in a hospital and I was worried, my parents were worried and nobody seemed to have an answer.
Fast forward a few months. I had gone through the worst couple months of my life. Nothing I ate seemed to stay down; I was always in the bathroom, sometimes even 10 times a day. The doctors had me on such a restricted diet. My poor mother didn’t know what to cook and I didn’t know what to eat. Everybody’s tensions were high. I was angry and trying to understand but so were the people around me, even worse they were confused as to how to help. Months rolled on I just kept telling myself I would get better, this is just a virus, the doctors were wrong. This would pass in no time and I’d be back to normal.
So after much preparation I boarded a flight with my mother from Nevis to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. I was to Visit an Egyptian Doctor in that of Dr. Morcos at Eureka Health Services.
I awoke from the anesthetic after my colonoscopy still drowsy as I was rolled out of the theatre. I was greeted with my mother who seemed more concerned than me. I was just happy I would be able to eat a little something after fasting. Dr. Morcos was waiting for us in his office. He gave me the same look my doctor at home gave to me. He said “Roger I looked at your colon and we do see ulceration.” I don’t remember the medical details. However he went on to say “You have ulcerative colitis and if you don’t do something about it you will end up with cancer or worse!” His stern tone caught me off guard and I wondered if my mother had been speaking ill of my lack of compliance with food and medication. I felt attacked and was ready to get on the defensive, he sensed this and quickly reached over and grasped my shoulder and said “We are both going to fight and you will get better. You have to make up in your mind that you want to get better and son, you will.
Morcos words struck straight to where I needed it to. I came back energized. Dr. Morcos gave me information, told him to call him whenever, “Shoot me an e-mail, get somebody to check up on you and have him forward all you tests.” He said smiling he was on my side, my family was on my side, God was on my side and now I had accepted what I needed to do and I was playing for the same team as everybody else.
Fast forward again. I worked on getting better after that day. I did more reading watched more online videos. I also spoke to anybody who I knew had the disease. I was determined to get back my life. It didn’t happen right away, no far from it. It took days of struggling experimenting, reading, exercising, meditation pressing, fighting, refusing to succumb.
I was and still am a fight. But something had changed in me; I felt something in me I never had before, a drive and a hidden peace. This disease as horrible as it is forced me to put life into perspective. Every day I tried to make myself better whether it be by eating right, changing my attitude positivity, being more diligent in reading my bible and just simply enjoying a meal or being able to enjoy a sunset or go out on a good day. It seemed that the sun shone brighter, food as bland as it was tasted better, life had meaning again and that meaning was defined by me getting better, me fighting this, me encouraging myself so I could encourage others. I was no longer selfish but I saw life as something to be enjoyed. In a funny round about weird kind of way, ulcerative colitis made me appreciate life more, made me fight harder for what I wanted and made my love for my true friends and family stronger. I like to think I gained wisdom beyond my years.
I stuck to my regime of a healthy diet as best as I could given financial and availability constraints. I exercised regularly and got back into karate and volleyball. At that point in my life, 2 years after that horrid diagnosis I was the heaviest (muscle mass) and most driven I had been in my entire life and it was all due to this chronic illness.
I had weaned myself off of steroids and their nasty side effects of moon face, aggression and irritability, insomnia and a horde of others. I was even off of Pentasa and was strictly on a high protein, vegetable and fruit diet with low carbs and sugars. I was feeling good. I felt I had cured myself and was going off to college to study medicine in Florida.
Talk about roller coaster. I went to college and realized that the strict university didn’t allow you to cook and I was forced to eat at the cafeteria. The food was not at all conducive to my health, spicy, oily food .My symptoms came back but I was stubborn and refused to believe that I was falling back into this state, I avoided going to the school doctor for fear of admitting I wasn’t really cured. That didn’t ‘turn out to well. I ended up going to the hospital in Florida. I got another scope and was got extremely sick, I was forced to drop out of school and went back home without even completing a semester.
But I was not about to give up. I spent the time home to read more exercise more, find out about doctors in the regions and Caribbean and equipped myself with every possible form of information to guide me through this dark time. It wasn’t easy; doubts would attack when things went bad. I felt like I had tried everything I could. I was at the point where I was my healthiest and having fallen from there so quickly, it just felt like a sucker punch the stomach.
Fast forward again. I am here in Trinidad back in school this time I have completed an entire year of University with all A’s for my last semester might I add. I am back into martial arts and practice MMA as well as have a healthy social life.
I know having any chronic illness is difficult to cope with and for family member and friends to understand. I know that, things aren’t always going to be perfect, but you know what before I got diagnosed, life was the same way: things were NEVER PERFECT! Now my “perfect” seems that much clearer, that much easier to achieve. My perfect is me being healthy, helping others to help themselves and living the way God intended me to despite any obstacle physically or otherwise. My perfect is what I’m striving for and I won’t give up until I get it.
If by chance you feel that drive that I hope echoes through my words, I want to give credit to where credit is due. I attribute it to, God of course but also to Ulcerative Colitis. Yes, Ulcerative Colitis took away my life for a while, but because of my faith in God and his plans for me as well as any other sufferer of UC, CD or any other disease, I was and we are able to take back our lives and live it the way we should; with drive, with motivation with purpose!