Here’s what I’ve been up to as of late.
So, last week I missed a blog post. It’s happened before and likely will happen again. Not because I’m being lazy, but because I’m either extremely busy, or don’t feel like I have a whole lot to contribute at that moment in time. In last week’s case, it’s the former.
On March 22nd I’ll be having my third surgery in the last thirteen years for Crohn’s disease.
As a result, I’ll be missing a little over two weeks of work and will also be severely limited to what I can accomplish in the other aspects of my life. That means I’ve been working longer hours at my job in order to leave my co-workers in a decent position. My time out will coincide with a quarter-end close which is never a good thing in my field (Accounting). Still, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.
I’m also coming home and trying to do everything I can think of that will require a significant physical effort on my part as I’ll be pretty weak and limited to what I can accomplish for many months. On top of that, I’m still trying to maintain my normal writing schedule and juggle all my commitments related to that. My wife is in a similar boat since she’ll be picking up my slack over the coming weeks/months as I recover.
Needless to say, we’re pretty tired.
In the midst of all the mayhem, I knew I needed a blog post for this week and thought that sharing a bit about my experience with Crohn’s disease might be interesting to some. (Don’t worry, I’ll avoid the really gross stuff you can find out on your own with a quick google search).
So, my first brush with Crohn’s disease began when I was 8. I started having intense stomach pains and in the span of a month lost about 11 pounds (which is a lot considering I weighed only 80 pounds before the weight loss). The doctors were baffled and ran me through a gambit of tests. They thought I had everything from cancer to even childhood bulimia at one point. The latter resulted with me seeing a psychologist for a brief period as they worked to eliminate the possibility I was starving myself.
By the way, did you know that I apparently had an unhealthy obsession with death? Ha.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and eventually it was discovered that my stomach was filled with quite a few bleeding ulcers. It was pretty rare for anyone at that age to suffer with that and if I recall correctly, my doctor at the time cited my case in a medical journal. Since Crohn’s disease was practically unheard of then, my condition was misdiagnosed as “an allergic reaction to dairy products.”
It took about three years before I started putting weight on again. During that time, I was rail thin and pretty sickly since I had flare ups all the time and was in a lot of pain whenever I ate. Eventually, the symptoms went into a remission of sorts and other than minor flare-ups here and there, I thought myself as being relatively cured.
That leads to the second experience.
In college, some of the same intense symptoms I had at 8 years old, began to rear their ugly head again-- severe abdominal pains, vomiting, lots of bathroom trips (sometimes as many as 20 in one day). It was a wonder I ever got anything accomplished.
Over the course of nine months or so, I lost about 35 pounds (going from 220 to 185). At 6’3”, that’s a big difference. During the latter part of those nine months I found a new gastro and went through a new gambit of tests. It was discovered that because of all the ulcers I had over the years, scar tissue had built up inside my stomach and the opening to my small intestine was only about the size of a pencil point. Food wasn’t getting to where it needed to go. I had my first surgery in August 2000, the day after my summer semester finals. I scheduled it then so I could be certain I’d have enough recovery time to still make the start of fall semester (which I did). I had about 18 inches of my small intestine removed and they also re-located my small intestine opening to a different part of my stomach. While they were in there they also removed my appendix.
Recovery was slow since the incision became infected and they had to re-open the wound and allow it to heal from the inside out (adding 3-4 months to the recovery process). This was pretty brutal since it takes me about 8-12 months to regain my full strength after each surgery as the incision is about nine inches long done the center of my abdomen.
All seemed well after the surgery. My appetite came back and so did the weight. It wasn’t until summer 2007 that the symptoms returned (third time, for those counting). At this point, I had just married Leah a few months earlier and moved to a new state. I had to find a new doctor.
The new doctor discovered that scar tissue from both the first surgery and a series of new ulcers in my stomach and small intestine created a wealth of new problems in the same area I had trouble with before. It was also discovered there were some issues at the small/large intestine connection, but it wasn’t as life-threatening as the other area. Since the upper area was more crucial, my surgery in November 2007 focused on that with the thought that the lower area would have to be addressed at a later date.
Unfortunately, I had the poor luck of problems with this incision as well which extended my recovery (the wound also had to heal from the inside out). Over the next several years I’ve dealt with an increasing number of flare-ups culminating to what seemed like at least once or twice a week in the last few months.
That leads us to where I am now. Though the medication I’ve been on has thankfully prevented new Crohn’s from forming, the area at the connection between the small and large intestine that was found in 2007, has progressed to the point where it is now a risk to my life. I actually had to go to the ER a couple weeks ago due to intense pain (the first time that’s ever happened) where it was discovered that I had a partial blockage in my intestine that passed on its own, and also probably had several others over the preceding months.
This upcoming surgery will remove a section of my small intestine yet again (estimated six inches as of now). That would make it the simplest of the surgeries I’ve had to this point. However, the doctor will still need to make the same long incision which means my recovery will be just as trying and once more there is the possibility the wound will need to heal from the inside out.
With that in mind, please pray that my surgery and recovery go well (including that the incision heals properly). Pray that my wife and children are able to handle my lack of contributions over the next few weeks/months to the normal day-to-day activity in the house. And pray that I’m able to handle the fact that I won’t be able to resume my normal activities (work, writing, things around the house) as soon as I’d like or at the level I would like.