Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week is just about as important for the diseases as the treatments. Known as the ‘invisible illnesses’, both hide away in your stomach showing little to no symptoms that make you think, “It’s so clear now- I have a form of inflammatory bowel disease!”. Until they strike. That’s when it becomes unbearable.
I’m fairly fortunate when it comes to Crohn’s Disease. I was told I had it at about 11 or 12 years old but now, around 10 years later, I live in remission. But being a 12 year old boy with Crohn’s is difficult and awkward. I missed a lot of school for appointments in speciality hospitals, was on steroids for spells lasting multiple weeks and endured a few minor procedures… well known to all sufferers, the colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy is a weird and wonderful thing. As a kid, I was usually anaesthetised because 1) I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a camera being shoved up my bum or 2) it was a very easy way out. They were much more frequent back then. All I remember was waking up, being sick and following up by being shown photos of my ulcerated gut. I think I’d rather be in school.
The last time I had one was a few months ago. The worst part was stomaching laxative based drinks and not eating for the duration of the day before. That’s when I learned the true definition of dehydration. Drink all the water you want, it’ll come out the other end straight away. The procedure was odd if not interesting. I got to see my insides as the doctor journeyed through my bowel and intestines, showing me previous scarring and minor inflammation. Like I said, I’m fortunate enough to have overcome my serious bout of Crohn’s as a child.
Mild Crohn’s is still Crohn’s and remission always carries the threat of relapse. That’s the nature of my Crohn’s. The invisible illness did still have profound impacts on my development into a man. I’m sure that if I was not a frequent steroid taker during puberty then I would have been a bit taller than the 5 feet 9 inches I stand at now. The men in my family are all over 6 foot, so there’s something odd going on there. Either way, a small price to pay for a relatively healthy bowel.
Then there was the liquid diet they tried with me. Modulen it was called. A milky substance liquid based diet was believed to give my bowel a rest and let it return to usual mechanics pre-Crohn’s. That lasted about 11 days as it did little to alleviate the pains I was enduring in my stomach. It was supposed to last 3 months (I think, my memory is hindered by the horror of a milk-based diet).
I see and hear of people with Crohn’s a lot more regularly than I did back then. I thought I was a bit of an unlucky anomaly, but now I empathise with people who still endure its effects. I reiterate, I’m lucky. While the prospect of relapse remains in the back of my head, I seek comfort in knowing the symptoms and scope of the disease. Griping pains, diarrhoea and weight loss. You may just feel a bit fatigued and unwell. It shows in so many ways and it is important that society relents the taboo of poo. Let’s talk about it more.