I’m typing this post around 10:35 p.m. (CST). Around this time on this date 20 years ago, I was recuperating from a major emergency surgery. I was in my second semester of my freshman year of college and had visited Health Services about a week before the surgery and had been diagnosed with the stomach flu. When the symptoms didn’t go away, I returned to Health Services and was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix. I was told that I needed surgery like yesterday, so I returned home to Chicago for the procedure. There’s a really interesting story that I’m skipping over for the sake of space – but maybe if you buy me cupcakes, I’ll share it . . . or it will just be a future blog post, lol!
I would later learn from the surgeon that they cut me open and found my appendix totally in tact and not even inflamed. (I think they took it out anyway, but I can’t remember anymore. So I may or may not have an appendix.) Instead, they found a walnut-sized hole in my small intestine. This explained the host of random medical issues I’d developed over the past year. It also explained the lifetime of excruciating abdominal pain I’d experienced up to that point. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. One reason that so many doctors could not pinpoint the problem was because – at the time – Crohn’s was believed to affect White men between the ages of 15-35. (There’s a host of socioeconomic injustice issues that I could unpack here, but I don’t have the space!)
The other day, someone asked me to share my experiences as a person living with a chronic illness – to help them better understand the challenges. The short version of my response? It sucks. But, being the eternal optimist that I am, I have managed to find ways to use it for good. This post (along with my others as well as my random Crohn’s related tweets) is one of those ways. I choose to continue to be vocal about my experience with Crohn’s in hopes of creating a greater awareness and understanding for those who need to learn. It’s been a long, sucky journey. My symptoms have increased in frequency and intensity over the past twenty years. I sometimes feel frustrated and angry and isolated.
But I’m still here. I inherited the Stubborn gene from both sides of my family, so my default setting is “Survivor.”
So here’s to 20 more years of posts about pooping, puking and persevering!
For more information on Crohn’s Disease, visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s website: ccfa.org.
Below are links to my other posts about living with Crohn’s: