tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies & suppositories! hooray!

first & foremost, drugs.   i wanted to give an update, considering all of the thoughtful emails, voicemails & texts im having a hard time reading. my nightly IBD meds make it hard to focus anyway, but when you add … Continue reading

“happy” anniversary? 10 years of IBD

10 years ago today, 3 days after i turned 17, i was diagnosed with Crohn’s.

  • 120 months
  • 521.7 weeks
  • 3652 days
  • 87,648.4 hours

but who’s counting…?

i was diagnosed almost 2 months to the day after my initial ICU hospitalization that lasted nearly 3 weeks, most of which i dont recall, and the rest of which i would very much like to forget.

i was officially diagnosed nearly 2 months after my 1st inpatient from the GI that initially saved my life. at my time of admission, while other ER physicians & doctors told me i “only had anxiety issues” or the symptoms were “in my head”.. a young GI named Raavi walked our families life & finally gave us answers. im not sure which colonoscopy it was, the 2nd, 3rd or 4th that i have a mental picture of my dad & Dr. Kondaveeti behind the glass in a room just before or after one of my scopes. they looked happy, which makes me think it was a colonoscopy later in my diagnosis.

i was 16 years old living exactly how a 16 year old should.. i had just gotten my license in the winter after having to hold off taking taking drivers ed & pass my test because of my knee surgery. i had just come back from a cruise to mexico. and the best yet, i was celebrating my prom. the day of prom was emotional for me. i didnt feel well & actually ended up going alone last minute, with the exception of receiving a beautiful corsage from my brother, who attended the dance with a friend of mine. having him there was probably the only memory worth remembering anyway. i remember sitting at the table at dinner unable to eat & stumbling to the bathroom to puke my guts out. no one knew how sick i was; i had no idea i was literally dying on the inside.

prom was the last thing i remember before the memory of semi-crawling on the floor of the bathroom to hallway & living room trying my best to get a breath of air out to shout to mom or dad. it was at that moment my life changed. what we would learn after days of uncertainty, would turn out to be acute pancreatitis & should have very well died from it.

i have mental pictures & very short memories my initial stay – some of friends & family visiting after they knew i would make it.. others i still flash back to at the most random of times – in a daydream, in a nightmare, a hospital visit but especially in the process of getting sedated.

the amount of sedatives & drugs they gave me to forget my visit there were worth it. i would never want to relive that stay & secretly knowing the uncertainty my family feared that i would walk out of that hospital, alive, makes my crumble inside. friends & family came to visit and many people came to show their love and support, having no idea how sick i was. i wont forget the expression on their faces when they had first seen me. little did i know that this was the beginning of my future in hearing comments about my appearance. i was a frail 87 pounds & pretty lifeless. i had now lived with an “invisible illness” but at the time, it was pretty visible.

the only time i remember being scared was in & out of consciousness receiving sedation in the middle of a doorway an ICU room being sent out for surgery; mom was standing next to dad looking over me telling me she loved me. she looked scared. i had never seen her scared before.

one of the moments that hurt the most was having to miss my brothers graduation. i begged to go; in a wheelchair, connected to my picc line, with the supervision and only for an hour. i was denied. through some diving miracle, a nurse came to tell us that the local college channel would be airing the ceremony from our high school. i was angry & i felt that not being there made me an unsupportive sister, and less of one. worst of all, mom stayed back with me and didnt go to rileys ceremony, so i felt like i was stealing thunder. so, mom hopped in bed with me, and comically enough, with no sound, we watched riley walk across the stage on a small tv in my room in ICU.

there were some positive memories from that visit; i will never forget adam bringing chris farley movies to watch with me. i think riley might have been there too. i had so many IVs hooked up i had to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes…. & it took a 1/2 hour to get up and make it the few steps to the bathroom with the help of nursing staff. we still joke because it literally took us one day to watch tommy boy.. or was it black sheep? either way, thanks adam.

i was a sick little girl with no idea how much my life would change over the next few years & now, 10 years later, reflecting on my diagnosis is difficult; its emotional & i know there are far too many people’s diagnosis that are mirror images of mine. who ever expects to get to sick so quickly? when youre 16, youre selfish, youre enjoying the things you want to enjoy, finding new friends & hobbies.. a place to fit in. if i could see 10 years in the future, at age 16, im not sure i could tell you the dreams i had for myself, if any.

my diagnosis story is eerily similar to many of the friends ive talked to, but most of them remembered their stay and/or woke up with a bag.  im honestly not sure how i avoided surgery that day, because in my medical charts, 85% of my intestines were ulcerated & inflamed. upon my initial admission to ICU, in one of the surgeries they had done, they discovered my intestines were too swollen to put a camera in there to see how many problems they had to deal with – they had no idea where to start.

living with crohns has given me opportunity to exceed many expectations, as a daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, student, classmate, coworker, friend & for myself & as a patient. i lived my first 16 years without chronic illness, but i lived them with little meaning.

if i hadnt been diagnosed with IBD,

i wouldnt have met two of my current best friends:

i never would have joined Team Challenge WI; i may have eventually ran a half-marathon in my life, but not with the support of others who currently live in a state of what-ifs:

i never would have realized my love of non-profits.

i would have never hosted blood drives, became an ally to someone in need & most importantly, i never would have become an advocate

i never would have corresponded with people in bangladesh, sweden, russia, new zealand & england.  as of this morning, my blog has reached over 100 countries. i cant imagine not being able to have the opportunity to meet these people.

i never would have dedicated my life to serving others:

i never would have loved my body; before i was diagnosed, i was self-destructive. i hated who i saw in the mirror. my self-destruction was mostly inside. and though i LOVE my body & who i am today, i still cover up full body mirrors.  im not there yet, but ill get there some day.  its fair to say that crohns HAS robbed me of my body image, steroids, memories, physical injuries… but its also fair to say that after all the things ive been through, im still smiling.

without my diagnosis, i would never have started #purpleproject & realized there are WAY too many people suffering with chronic illness in our world and the one thing they really need is support.

i have no idea what the next 10 years will bring, but i hope sometime within those years, the money we’ve worked so hard to raise, will lead to more effective treatments & eventually a cure.

10 years is 10 too long. 1 day is 1 too long. i have no idea what the future will bring for me but if its half as educating, enlightening & discovering what it has made me.. i will continue to move on. stronger with each step.

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before i got sick

the following is a collaborative piece that would simply not exist without the knowledge you have all given to me. i dedicate these words to all of the generous souls who have let me inside of their personal worlds. on the good days.. and on the worst days of their lives. this is my love letter to all of the people who have made an impact on my personal journey.

dont let my positivity fool you. i have had hardships and struggles in my life with disease. i will not lie; there are days i quit, knowing i can start over fresh the next day. but the things that have been taken away from me due to my disease, have in turn provided me in opportunity; ten fold. friends, networks of support, communities filled with IBD & autoimmune patients just. like. me. who knew?

how ive grown.. (2013 IBD awareness week edition)

ask me.

ask me.

how can i count the ways?

i started this journey as a 17 year old girl. i thought i was invincible then. truth is, i

was just really naive. though ive always been fascinated by the human body & had a guilty pleasure growing up watching creepy, gory shows like CSI, my love of the human body grew the day i learned i also had ulcerative colitis, in addition to my initial diagnosis of crohns disease. devastated, i made a pledge to myself that i would educate myself and do what it took to have control over the parts of my life i could control. though it was a lengthy process, im proud of the person i am today. that statement in itself is something i never thought id be able to say. even before my diagnosis, i had terrible self-image; something im also proud to say today is much better.

not only have i grown to accept myself in the eyes of myself, i learned to educate others about IBD. in this turn of event, my passion for becoming involved with non-profits grew. i became involved with CCFA, BloodCenter of WI & also some national non-profits that tied into the work i was doing at the time. its easy for anybody working with non-profits to fall in love with what they do and later on down the road in my career, i realized its what i was meant to do. so, i began sharing my story. by the grace of God, i was asked to share this story in front of what seemed like a million people at Miller Park for a Take Steps event in 2011. standing in front of such a large crowd of people so accepting of what IBD is & honestly interested in hearing what i had to say was nothing short of inspiring, motivating & terrifying! i knew if i could do this, i could do so much more than what i thought i was capable of. so, i began to tell others. many of who had a family member with crohns or colitis but didnt know all too much about it. i learned to expect all sorts of reactions. (i still laugh at some facial expressions to this day). it wasnt always the easiest to explain a disease that heavily involves ones bowel movements & heck, it may never be easy, but it does get a little better every day. and honestly, there can be a lot of good conversation that stems from it. much of physical disease involves emotional well-being too. so, its nice to know that someone genuinely wants to know about you & learn about how youre able to overcome so many struggles. when i talk to you about my disease, it means im comfortable with you and that.is.big. 17 year old kelly would not be caught dead in a fishermans net talking about poop or living with IBD.

so yes, im proud to have GUTS. im not sorry if you find my facebook, instagram or twitter posts annoying. not only are they my form of therapy to occasionally vent into cyberspace, it allows me to connect with others in the same situation as me. i used to struggle with getting out of bed in the morning. & that was when i was 20! ..at the prime age you should be enjoying college & forming life-long relationships. immature & inexperienced, i thought my life was over when id wake up & see prednisone cheeks – until i learned that waking up morning after morning was a blessing!! i embraced who i was, became comfortable with time in telling people about my IBD after becoming educated about it myself. i lived in denial the first few years post-diagnosis and thats no ones fault but my own. not saying you can learn to deal overnight, but living with disease is MUCH easier than living in denial with disease. im thankful for my fellow IBD blogger, Mel, who taught me the phrase “coming out of the bathroom”. its true.  i spent too many years living in denial that robbed me of a few good youthful years (sick or not). i felt bad for myself, became depressed and hid in my apartment in fear society would eat me alive. i settled for relationships that were emotionally & physically bad for me. i have crohns, not cooties. im not contagious. im not sorry that i came around & finally found the positives and now embrace the person i am and deserve good things in life. im a person first, who has a condition.  it seems the people who most often roll their eyes are the ones who know the least. as a patient who will likely live with these diseases the rest of my life, its my responsibility to help educate our community to help accept us, so we learn to accept ourselves. i wont apologize for being comfortable in my own skin, using my backbone & advocating for a cause i truly believe in. how much have i changed? let me count the ways..

xox