For about 10 years now I’ve lived with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). It’s an autoimmune illness that currently has no cure. If anyone isn’t familiar with UC I’ll explain here (others can skip ahead). UC starts out as a bacteria in the colon. We get them all the time. Our body fights them, we move on. Except with UC, the brain never gets the message that the bacteria is gone. So it keeps fighting. And fighting. And fighting. It fights so hard to rid your body of this phantom bacteria that it can start to eat away at the lining of your colon, causing ulcers. All that fighting and all that blood loss makes a person suffering with a flare of UC quite uncomfortable. Cramping, nausea, blood and mucus are your constant companions during a flare. Now, there is treatment, however each person reacts differently to the various methods out there, and believe me, it feels like I had tried them all. Three years of trying different medicines or diets, only to find that each one made me feel no better or often worse than before was no fun. It was a miserable few years. Just ask my ex-husband. Our kids were little at the time and mom always seemed to be sick.
After changing docs and medication, I’m now doing pretty well. On a normal day, you won’t know that I’m sick (though I do need almost daily naps because of the fatigue of a body constantly fighting). I even forget I have a chronic illness a lot of the time. That means I’m properly medicated and know how to do self-care. These things don’t cure the issue, it just helps you maintain a life of normalcy. I will still have flares depending on how well I manage my triggers. Each person has different triggers. Mine are stress…ibuprofen and certain antibiotics as I learned this past week.
I had been flare free for over two years. Oh, maybe one day of bleeding, here and there, but nothing I couldn’t contain with meds reserved for flares. But no hospital trips for a good long window. When you go that long without a flare, you tend to forget that they can happen. You start to feel normal. Then, just like that, a flare can hit and turn your world upside down. started as
It started as a miserable flu, which turned into bronchitis and led me to see my doctor. Naturally, my doc was off so I saw another who checked me over and promptly wrote a prescription for antibiotics. I knew that antibiotics COULD make my UC flare, but I’d taken antibiotics before and been just fine. I opted to breathe and took the script. When I opened the pharmacy bag, I should have paused. It wasn’t the normal 10 day, 3 times a day, course of antibiotics I was used to. There were only 5 pills in the box. I would be done with these in 5 days? Cool. Taking the first two pills that day as instructed, I had no idea the havoc it was about to wreak on my poor unsuspecting colon.
By the next morning, I was flaring, and flaring hard. Naturally, it was the weekend, so I stayed home from work and my kiddos tended to me. I hated how weak I felt. I just wanted to feel better. Wanted to play with my kids. I wanted to do the bake day we had planned…
I was just hungry. If I could eat, I’d get my strength back, surely. So I exerted all my energy on making myself a bowl of soup and then proceeded to tip it over on accident, making a huge mess I didn’t have the strength. I began to cry. Right there, at the kitchen table, my two kids stood nearby, frozen with uncertainty. Their mom sat, hair a mess, pale as a cucumber and crying over a bowl of spilled soup. I was so sick, I couldn’t even feed myself. I should have gone to the doctors then, but I didn’t. I had my kids, I wanted to be strong for them. They offered to clean up my mess and I went back to bed. I sent the kids to school the following day and went to work (I know, I’m an idiot). I thought I might be getting better. I felt a little stronger… I didn’t last the whole day. I left early and spent the rest of the day in bed. The kids were at their fathers for a few days so I was going to just chill and take it easy. The rest of that night and the following morning, I was home alone, as I often am. However, this time, I was sick. There was no one to fetch me more water, no one to put a blanket on me, no one to find the saltines or take my temp, no one to give the doctor a quick call to see if I should be seen. It was just me and my UC. For the first time since my divorce, I was alone with my illness. It was a little bit scary.
At about 9 am on the ides of March, I drove myself to the doctor. I knew I was dehydrated. I knew I needed fluids. I knew the UC had won this round. It was time to stop being strong and get some help. I needed someone to lean on, even if that someone was a nurse with an IV bag.
I was discharged withing in a few hours. In that time, I got two much-needed bags of fluid, anti-nausea meds and some pain meds. I was sent home with instructions to rest and keep drinking fluids, which I am. The flare is not over, far from it. It will likely take a few more weeks to right itself (now that the antibiotics are no longer in my system). Until then, I need to rest, keep stress down, keep fiber low and remember that I am NOT superwoman and it’s okay to ask for help. Just because I’m single doesn’t mean I have to fight this alone. I have my kids, my friends and the kind nurses and doctors who will take care of me and my persistent, persnickety illness even when I can’t.