A struggle for months
Oct 9, 2017
Hello! My name is Jessica. I am 18 years old and I am a Freshman in college. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in April 2017, but I struggled for months with stomach problems, extremely low energy, and the inability to do the things I enjoy.
My symptoms began in the beginning of summer 2016. I started having abdominal pain, and some minor stomach issues. I thought to myself that this was nothing serious, maybe it was something I was eating, so I ignored the stomach pains. As the summer went on I continued feeling the same, I was tired all the time with no energy, I was still experiencing abdominal pain and concerns about going to the bathroom. I talked to my mom about my worries and how I was scared, so she scheduled a doctor's appointment for me at the gastroenterologist in August 2016. I went to the doctor, who was nice and made me feel a bit more at ease about what I was experiencing. I told him my symptoms, how I had stomach pain and noticed some redness in the bathroom. He told me that if it was blood I would know, because to me it did not seem like blood, it seemed like something I was eating was affecting me. He sent me to get a cat scan, and the only thing the cat scan showed was a minor cyst due to my menstrual cycle. So hearing this brought me to think "okay, it is just something I must be eating, I'll be fine." Due to having the cyst it brought me to go to the gynecologist to be prescribed birth control. Birth control can help with menstrual cycles and ovarian cysts. At the time, I was also told I had "minor anemia," which would also be helped by the pill. So I went on the pill and continued living my life like there was nothing wrong with me.
This was all going on right at the start of my senior year,so it was a really fun time for me even though I was feeling the way I was feeling. I had great friends, great classes, and fun activities. From September to November I was having a really fun time. I felt happy and myself, even though I still had some symptoms. Once December hit, I was a couch potato. I did not want to go out or see any of my friends. All I wanted to do was lay on my couch and watch television. This brought concerns to my mom and she would ask me if I was upset about anything and how I was feeling. I told her I was fine because the doctors I had saw told me I was fine. Clearly I wasn't.
My senior year continued, and the months of January to the beginning of April I struggled. I continued to lay around all of the time, I got out of breath so easily. I would walk up one flight of stairs and I would be panting, my legs would shake, and I would have to sit down to catch my breath. This was only ONE flight of stairs in my house. At school was rough, walking up flights of stairs all day, being super behind my friends who were walking way ahead of me. I remember walking up to the third floor and once I got up there my head was pounding, my legs were shaky, and I felt like I was going to faint. This issue of course concerned me, but I just thought oh maybe I'm really out of shape. Again I just let this slide and did not think too much into it. This went on for almost a full four months.
My mom finally got an appointment for me with the gastro doctor my dad sees(my dad has Crohn's). I went to see him in the beginning of April. My mom and I talked to him about all of my symptoms, all of my doctor's visits for random joint swelling of my wrists and ankles,and what was concerning me. He typed everything down and I knew that I could trust this doctor. He told me I needed blood work and he wanted me to get a colonoscopy. This terrified me because I really did not want to get a colonoscopy. He told me he really suggested it, but he said I could sleep on the idea. I decided on the car ride home that I would get one, and deal with it. After my doctor visit with him I went to get blood work. The next day I went to school and did not hear back about the blood work until Wednesday. (I saw the gastro doctor on a Monday). Wednesday afternoon, in my last class of the day I had an early dismissal. I had no idea I was getting out of school early that day, and I walked downstairs to the lobby and saw my mom. She said, "lets go, you're going to the hospital, you need a blood transfusion immediately. My gastro doctor saw my blood work, and my hemoglobin/blood level was a 5.3! A normal level is 11 and above, and mine was a 5.3. I went to the hospital and sat there for about four hours. I got two bags of blood. Two pints of blood put into me because I lost 2/3 of my blood over a course of a year. My dad sat with me for the whole thing, which was very kind of him to do. The nurses felt so bad for me. They said how pale and exhausted I looked. The gastro. doctor was surprised at how good I looked, and shocked that I could actually move around. As soon as I got home I had to start prepping for my colonoscopy. That was probably the worst part, the actual procedure was nothing. It all went by so fast. I don't remember closing my eyes when I got put to sleep, but the medicine felt funny when it went through my body. I woke up feeling a little giggly, but for the most part I just felt a bit tired. The doctor came over and told me I had ulcerative colitis, and there was a lot of bleeding. He put me on prednisone and iron pills. I felt amazing again within two weeks. My blood level went from a 5.3 to almost a 10 in a short time span, and I felt like I was on top of the world. It felt so great to feel normal and healthy again. I saw my whole family after I felt good again and they all hugged me and told me how scared they were when they found out my hemoglobin level. I had color in my face again and no longer looked ghostly pale.
I am glad to say that to this day my colitis is still under control through taking Humira, and Lialda. I don't always feel amazing like I did before, that was from the steroids, but for the most part, I am in remission with my ulcerative colitis. Living with this disease comes with more stress and depression, but I know it is possible to work through it,and be able to live a happy life. I really fell through the cracks with doctors in the past. They clearly did not see my unhealthy blood report, which had "alert" on most of the tests done. When I look back at pictures of me from that rough time, I get sick to my stomach seeing how tired, pale, and sad I look. I am so thankful for all the good, caring doctors out there.
Thank you all to those who read my story. I look forward to reading everyone else's, and I wish you all with this disease a lifetime of remission, and happiness.