Hi, my name is Justine Walker. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was nine years old. Ulcerative Colitis is defined as a disease that causes irritation and ulcers in the lining of the large intestine and rectum. That definition doesnít cover half of what is associated with this disease. I am now eighteen years old. I have lived with this illness for nine years. My battle with Colitis was surprising and heartbreaking at every turn. This disease isnít just a physical disease - it affects your mental health as well. Growing up with this illness hasn't been an easy task.
I was introduced early on to the routine of taking medications. Just one of the medications I was introduced to throughout my experience was Prednisone. This drug is known as a steroid, and it has countless side affects (none of which are pleasant). I was subjected to weight gain, hair growth, joint pain, muscle pain, poor eyesight, mood swings and migraines. At one point I acquired a heart murmur because I was gaining weight too quickly for my body from taking this drug. These side effects are from only one medication, and at one point I was taking twenty-one pills a day!
Now you ask, why take the medication? I feel that our options are extremely limited. There are plenty of drugs to prescribe out there that make our colon better while making the rest of our bodies sick. So we are weighing our pros and cons. The question is whether we want a healthy colon with a sick body, but we always have to remind ourselves that we will never have a completely healthy colon.
There are also many tests that we are subject to. I personally have gone through colonoscopys, biopsies, barium enema x-rays, blood tests, stool samples, bone density tests, EKGs, and each time I visited my specialist I was given a rectal exam (an uncomfortable procedure with a swollen rectum). All of these tests are in one way or another prescribed because of my illness. These tests are awful and sometimes nightmarish. Most patients with Colitis get a colonoscopy yearly (if all is well). For the colonoscopy prep we are subject to a disgusting tasting drink. Depending on the different preps you either have to drink a gallon of it or three ounces, but all of which I can assure you taste completely awful. The next day they put you under anesthesia and insert a small tube with a light and a camera attached into your rectum so they can see the process of your disease and take biopsies of your intestine.
Scientists have not been able to find a cause or a cure for this disease. The only procedure you can get is a proctocolectomy. I decided to get this procedure (a proctocolectomy with a temporary ileostomy) in November of this year. I am still in the process of getting "cured". My proctocolectomy is a two series operation. The first step entails the removal of the large intestine and coring out of the rectum, as well as all the reconstructive surgery. The second step entails the removal of the stoma and reconnecting the small intestine. Many people feel that this is an overly drastic move, but it is the only option I had.
After ten years of Colitis my cancer risks had doubled. Most patients do not know this but colitis travels. My inflammation started at the rectum and eventually spread throughout the whole large intestine. If I had decided not to get the procedure I would probably have Crohnís disease by now and my rectum would never work properly again. At that point they can't do anything for you.
After the first surgery I feel so much better. I still am not 100 percent but in time I feel I will get there. My family and my friends were a big help in my recovery. I can now go out and have fun without painful stomach aches and cramps. I am on a strict diet but that is easy to follow when I can look forward to a time when I will be able to feel healthy and normal again.
There are two reasons for this article. One was to let you know about this disease. I want more people to be aware of the diseases around them. We want others to consider our illnesses like they consider diabetes and cancer, because it is just as prominent as other diseases. Many people donít take it seriously because the people afflicted with this disease donít look sick. In truth we are.
The other reason for this article was to offer support to anyone who feels they
need it. Support is a big part of recovering from inflammations and surgery and I
wanted to make myself available. Feel free to contact me any
time you feel the need. I will always be glad to share my experiences with
anyone who needs to talk.