At 16 years of age, I began to complain of stomach pains. Most often it was thought that I had food poisoning or gastritis. Our living situation did not afford me the opportunity to just pick up and visit the doctor when any little thing was wrong. My family believes in going to the doctor when it is absolutely necessary (translation: on deathbed). I was ultimately told that I had ulcers, although I do not recall any scoping procedures. The family doctor commented, “What kid gets ulcers at 16?” Good question.
My body seemed to calm down for a while. Years, in fact. My first year in pharmacy school, I spent a week in the hospital where doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I had woken up one night with alternating chills and hot flashes, waves of nausea and vomiting, and indescribable abdominal pain. After crawling to the bathroom and reaching the cooled tiled floor, I collapsed for what seemed like hours. Those mystery abdominal pains woke me up and I knew I was in trouble. I knew this wasn’t the result of a bag of cheetos and grape soda from my study session. I do not advise this…..but I drove myself to the hospital.
They never actually diagnosed a cause. I was told I “must have had a ruptured cyst” with no evidence of this, by the way. Checked out when I felt better, and back to school as usual. Over time, there were different issues that I noticed but was told (I would call the nurses desk at the hospital and ask questions….all the time) that these certain changes were normal as our bodies and diets change. OK. My stools were noticeably different. More frequent and weird consistency. I had random abdominal cramping (whether I ate or not, and mind you, I had NEVER had menstrual cramps) along with nausea. This continued, and within a year of graduating I was in a full flare.
This flare led to the diagnosis of Crohns Colitis, as yes, I have two areas of my intestine compromised. The “full flare” presented with multiple urgent trips to the bathroom, even with nothing in my stomach. (By multiple, I mean 8 to 9 times a day). A feeling of having “to go” when I knew there was nothing. But there was…..blood…lots of it, mucous, and a little piece of my sanity each time. I knew I had some sort of colitis, and am grateful that I was able to find a specialist, one of the best, so quickly. The first part of healing is getting diagnosed.
I have been blessed to have very good gastros over the years to manage my illness and work as a team with other doctors, especially when I decided to have children. A gastroenterologist, my OB/GYN, a neonatologist, and an accupuncturist means you have time for nothing else. More on that later.
With IBD, to experience as many good days as possible, everything has to be thought out ahead. Planning your activities, what you eat, childbirth, exercise, ALL of it is a project. But it is doable. More on that too.
My name is Saskia Madison, and I am highly active, compared to most women my age. I’m ridiculous, actually, but whatever. I have three children, a busy husband and life does not stop because I have C & C. I certainly recognize that each day I am given could be far more difficult. So I take each one and fill it with possibility.