My Story with Ulcerative Colitis and Surgery
I was 21 years old, without a care in the world. Working in a family business and living with parents, life was good and relatively easy. I had very little interests outside of socialising with friends, drinks most weekends, working out occasionally, looking after my car and watching football. As far as the future went, my mind just wanted things to continue nice and easy.
At 29 Years Old, My Life Changed Forever
I began to suffer with stomach pains, bloody diarrhea and chronic fatigue. After several GP visits and being miss diagnosed with IBS, hemorrhoids and food allergies, I was finally diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, after a colonoscopy following being hospitalized due to severe illness.
I was put on steroids and azathioprine and gradually began to recover, starting out my new life with UC – reading the leaflets, following the advice and trying to follow the various diet recommendations. My immature mind told me all would be ok, to carry on and ‘its one of those things’, making little changes to my lifestyle. The next few years were a rollercoaster of balancing severe flareups, feeling ill, chronic fatigue and weight loss with family, drinking with friends, working, gym etc with neither area going well. Little did I know, my future wasn't looking bright and in trying to balance these ‘priorities’, I was laying no foundation for future wellness in any areas. Looking back now, I know my biggest mistake was failing to realize there should have been one core priority, mental wellness.
Surgery for Ulcerative Colitissurgery and life with an ileostomy bag. In the vain world we live today, an ileostomy for ulcerative colitis to a 29 year old is terrifying. I underwent emergency surgery to have my entire colon removed, this was the single event that completely changed my life and little did I know, for the better. Things were not all easy at first. Waking up from surgery chronically fatigued, weak and mentally exhausted – I could not mentally cope with having an ileostomy bag. The week in hospital recovering and coping with the bag were the hardest days of my life, my head had been in the sand for too long and now I was paying the price for ignoring my mental wellness.
Finding The Strength To Persevere
Little did I know, but this event had started a fire in me. After returning home, little by little, my strength improved and with each small gain, so did my mind strength. I focused one day at a time and began to see things in a whole new light without ulcerative colitis symptoms. I had a future and a goal and from now on, each day i was going to do something in order to get there. With my severely ulcerated colon removed, I was now able to eat and eat well, which felt amazing.
Over the next few years I used my new found physical strength from improved diet and sleep, to begin a wellness journey improving my mind strength. Over the next few years I got married, travelled the world , retrained my skills to start a new career and dramatically improved my physical fitness and strength. Focusing on mental and physical wellness has given me the strength to not only cope with an ileostomy bag, but to thrive with it. To this day when I tell people I have an ileostomy bag, I usually get a shocked kind of reaction. Rather than let this bother me or feel insecure, I secretly smile as I know this has given me more strength than anyone could ever realize.