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A long story made short

My name is Colin. I have no colon.

It’s kind of a long story.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis in my early 20s, I underwent a battery of drugs and testing and I ultimately was forced to have my colon completely removed from my body and replaced with an internal pouch made from a portion of my small intestine.

OK, well … maybe it’s not that long of a story.

I first noticed something was wrong during my senior year of college when I started becoming really good friends with my toilet. If a healthy person has one bowel movement a day, I was averaging eight to nine trips. It felt like I couldn’t keep anything in my system for more than 10 or 20 minutes.

I felt like an unkinked hose; one side took in the food and the other end released it without anything in the middle to slow the process down.

The symptoms faded almost as soon as they came as my life started to return to normal after a few weeks. Looking back, I suppose that was a warning shot of sorts because my troubles came back in a big way just months after graduation.

March 11, 2008 – the day before my 23rd birthday.

That’s probably the most important day of my life.

A few months into my first “real” job as a reporter for a daily newspaper, I started dealing with the same issues: frequent trips to the bathroom and a sped-up digestive cycle. This time, however, I noticed that I was starting to lose weight and I had started to become more lethargic during the middle of the day.

I’ll never forget what it meant to finally find out what the heck was wrong with me. After seeing my family doctor, I was referred to a gastroenterologist who gave me my first colonoscopy. When I finally came to from the anesthesia, my doctor presented me with a stack of photos taken of my colon and it was then that I saw all the cuts and bleeding that had overtaken it.

“You have what is called ulcerative colitis, Colin,” the doctor said, rather calmly.

“OK, what’s that mean?,” I said, rather dumbfounded.

I have what?…

When you’re in your 20s, you probably don’t know where you’ll be in 10 years, you probably don’t know what you’ll be doing in 10 years and – maybe most importantly – you probably don’t know who you’ll be sharing your life with in 10 years. What we want out of our lives isn’t what a middle-aged person wants and life with UC can send you down a road of questioning everything.

The moment my gastro doc told me that I had ulcerative colitis was the first time I’d ever heard of UC. I was clueless, so I went to Google – and that’s when I made my first mistake. I absorbed everything I could about the worst-case scenarios for UC, focusing my attention on excruciating details about what this disease can take from you.

Don’t get me wrong; UC does take a lot from you – I won’t lie and tell you that you won’t have days where your body can’t do what your mind and spirit want, but I can share some advice that I wish I had when I was learning about UC. Most people who are successfully living with this disease are too busy doing just that – living – to mislead, frighten or demand your sympathy.

What people need to understand about UC is that it isn’t a death sentence. There are times where you won’t be sure that you have the energy or even the desire to keep going on, but if you take an aggressive approach to your treatment and explore all your options, you can still live the life that you want.

UC has taken a lot from me, but it’s also made me a stronger person. Negativity is an easy trap to fall to, but this disease has made me appreciate that everyone is living with something and it’s your choice in how you deal with your situation.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    5 months ago

    Great story. Thank you for sharing your positive outlook. I too was diagnosed with IBD senior year of college and had no idea what IBD was. It is such a shocking diagnosis, especially to someone who has never been sick.

    It is good to see that you have a great mind set and it seems you are thriving and doing well.

    Cheers to good health!

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • Colin Harris moderator author
    5 months ago

    Thanks for the kind words! It really was a shock to the system to get my diagnosis because I was so fortunate to live a relatively healthy life up to that point. I hadn’t even broken a bone, haha!

    I hope you’re doing well medically and in general! It’s so nice to meet other IBD folks who are trying to spread a positive message in the community!

    – Colin

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    5 months ago

    Thank you, Colin! Rooting for you.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • crystal.harper moderator
    6 months ago

    I love your positive attitude. I’m glad you got some answers although getting that news the day before your birthday probably wasn’t the ideal timing. How have you been doing recently? Also, kind of off topic but I’m just curious- you mentioned that when you got diagnosed you had no idea with what life would be like for you in ten years. Since it’s now been over ten years, is there anything you would go back and tell your newly diagnosed self?

  • Colin Harris moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hey Crystal! Thanks for the kind words! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m doing physically because it’s very easy to think you’re fine when you have a J-Pouch that works well (which I thankfully do). I’ve had it for so long that I just consider going to the bathroom 5-6 times a day to be totally “normal,” so it’s easy to forget that I’m not “cured,” so to speak. I’m rambling, but I really am in a much better place physically than I ever was when I had a diseased colon inside of me. As for what I would say to myself if I could go back in time and meet with the Colin preparing to undergo the surgical process, I’d tell him that in 10 years, he’ll have met and married the love of his life and he’ll actually be a little overweight compared to the skin and bones I was when I was at my sickest. I’d just let him know that the life he thinks he can’t have will happen for him, you know?

  • TPChamp
    6 months ago

    Well put…I’m in the same boat and will be 5 years past my J-Pouch surgery in November. Time has really flown by and I’ve learned to live with my new plumbing but still have days when I feel like ‘why me?!’.

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