I have always been a healthy person. Growing up, I got sick maybe once a year, we ate well, and I was always an active kid. In college, I kept this up. I ate a pretty nutritious diet, I exercised, and I never got sick. I mean of course I took care of myself, I was majoring in Exercise and Sports Science, and I knew the importance of taking care of my body.
But then my body started to give me warning signs. Starting in the summer of 2020, I started having some pretty severe stomach pain. I just attributed it to stress or eating too late or eating too much processed food. Then the scary symptoms started in October. I started losing weight, I had no appetite, and there was bleeding.
I put off going to the doctor for a little bit, but I finally went to see my primary care doctor in December. They put me on medications for hemorrhoids, and told me that if it didn’t clear up, to call back. And it didn’t clear up. I was referred to a gastroenterologist for the dreaded colonoscopy.
The month and half between my referral in early January to my colonoscopy on February 16, 2021, was the scariest and most stressful time I can remember. All I could think about was what could possibly be wrong. I mean I’m only 23, these types of things don’t happen. On top of that, I was getting married in 3 weeks. How could I possibly be going through this during the happiest time of my life?
The colonoscopy prep was AWFUL. I mean you hear all about how terrible the prep is, but until you experience it, you can’t really grasp how miserable it is.
I went in at 7:30 am for my appointment. I was prepped and sedated and it was over in 20 minutes. When I woke up, the nurse was hydrating me and reassuring me that everything was fine, but my doctor was talking to my parents. I waited for what seemed like forever, but the doctor finally came in and told me “You have Ulcerative Colitis.”
At that moment, I was not too sure what to think. I was relieved that it wasn’t cancer, but I had heard about Ulcerative Colitis. It is an auto-immune disease, it is chronic, there is not a cure. I would be living with this my whole life.
As I left my appointment, I went home and ate all the food I couldn’t the days leading up to my colonoscopy. My first reaction was thankfulness. I am SO thankful that I was diagnosed fast and early, and I am also thankful that the Ulcerative Colitis has only affected 1 foot of my colon. I am so thankful for a team of experienced doctors that were able to fit me in because I knew something was wrong.
After the thankfulness, there is so much fear and uncertainty. There are so many outcomes of this disease and so much trial and error. We are still trying to nail down the right medications for me, and I am still coming to terms with the fact that this is something that I will be living with my whole life.
There is also frustration. Some days I feel so sick and tired that I can barely pull myself out of bed but I have to go to work. Some days the bloating is so bad I can’t even fit into my clothes. I mean I’m a personal trainer, and I have not been able to exercise consistently for over 6 months. Even though my family and some friends know about my diagnosis, it is hard to get across that yes, I don’t look sick but I am. It is hard to explain the excruciating pain that just randomly comes out of nowhere while I’m out to dinner with friends. I feel guilty for the endless mood swings, waking up 10 times a night, and the never ending hunger that I have when I’m on Prednisone for a month (yep, I’ve basically eaten the whole apartment).
I’m not sharing all this to complain. I want to be real with you here. I have been so health conscious and I thought I was doing everything right. So much of what I know to be healthy might not be healthy for me. For example, what about all the fiber I was supposed to be consuming to keep my gut healthy? That makes my symptoms worse during a flare so back to white rice and white bread.
I share this to say that I am learning. My health journey has been thrown off course. I am taking the time to go back to the basics. I’m doing everything I can to reduce stress, get enough sleep, drink enough water, get in my steps, and take my medications daily. I am working to eliminate the toxins from our home, tracking food to see what brings about symptoms, reading, listening to podcasts, and following people who have been here before me.
I am taking this one step at a time, and I know I will eventually learn how to manage my ulcerative colitis diagnosis. Right now, I may not be able to lift heavy like I love to do and I may have to adjust my diet, but in the long run, all this is just another step in my health journey.
No one’s journey is the same and no one’s journey is linear. While I often catch myself on social media getting jealous as I see other personal trainers making progress in the gym, I know that right now, that is not where I am and I am learning to be okay with that.
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I help busy women achieve their health goals with attainable workouts, lifestyle coaching, nutrition, and education.