We Endure: Through Sickness
My name is Brittany and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2012, when I was just 16 years old. I have never completely told my story before, so I think it’s time I had.
“We believe you have Crohn’s disease” the doctor said. “I’m sorry, there is no cure, but we can try to manage your symptoms as they come.” First of all, I was confused and
overwhelmed. To this day, I barely remember that conversation; it was all a blur. Sick? What did they mean I was sick. I mean yeah I haven’t been feeling well and my stomach has been hurting, but me? Sick? No way..
Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease located in the digestive system. It can cause inflammation anywhere in the digestive system. Some of the symptoms I had were: frequent trips to the restroom, abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloody stools, and inability to control my bowels.
Throughout my diagnosis, I had tried every medication available for Crohn’s disease. None of them seemed to work for me. Even high doses of prednisone couldn’t keep my symptoms at rest. Most of my disease was targeting my rectum. This caused even more symptoms as my Crohn’s flared up more in that area.
Here I was in my early 20’s, I could barely sit without pain. Using the restroom was getting unbearable. I could barely control my bowels at all anymore; which lead to wearing sanitary pads every single day because I had leakage. I was afraid to leave my own home, because i didn’t know if I would make it to a restroom in time. I couldn’t keep a job, and I had to take time off school because of my poor health.
I was a prisoner in my own body.
At the age of 21, the bleeding ulcers in my rectum were getting worse, and more frequent. The ulcers caused scar tissue to build up, which ultimately lead to the narrowing of my rectum. This added even more problems to my life. Stool could no longer pass through that area. Now, I could no longer use the restroom without using high doses of laxatives. For months, I couldn’t leave my toilet, and I had even more incontinence.
This scar tissue was permanent, it could be managed with stretching under anesthesia, but it would always return to the narrow passage it once was. The scar tissue also created the risk of my rectum rupturing, which could cause sepsis, and potential death.
My gastroenterologist could no longer do anything but manage my pain. My body was not responding to treatments or medications, the scar tissue was permanent, and becoming increasingly dangerous. My doctor had always told me that surgery was our last resort; at this point, surgery was my only option.
I made appointments with several surgeons to find out which one I felt most comfortable with, and which one gave the best (and honest) advice. I chose to move forward with a surgeon in San Diego, who was recommended by a friend of mine. This surgeon gave me several options, all of which were not ideal, because they would all drastically change my life. He made it clear that my rectum was in very bad shape and it was only going to get worse. I left his office very overwhelmed and, quite honestly, terrified at the choice I now had to make.
I spent the next few weeks thinking about my options, and asking my family for advice. In those weeks, it became clear that I only had one real option. This was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life, but I knew it would be for the best.
On December 27, 2017, i had my rectum completely removed, and a permanent colostomy bag placed on my abdomen. For the rest of my life, I now live with this colostomy bag because my backside was so damaged that it needed to be stitched closed. Recovery was difficult, but this was the best decision of my life.
Here I am, now 22 years old, 3 months post-op, and I am a proud owner of a new colostomy! I cannot say it enough how much I love my new life. Having this surgery has eliminated ALL, yes ALL, of my symptoms. My bathroom anxiety is also gone! I am no longer worried about urgently needing to use a restroom. For the first time in 6 years I
am living life, PAIN FREE! In the last month alone, I have lived life more than I ever have, and I have no sign of slowing down!
I am happy again, and I feel FREE!
I had no intention of sharing my story at this time, but I felt that I had to. I want to show people that although we endure terrible situations, there is light at the end of that tunnel. There is hope, and there is grace. I am proud of what I have gone through and it truly has made me the woman I am today. I am strong, and I have endured.