Crohn’s Disease: The Little C
Quick notice: This blog has absolutely nothing to do with video games, movies or just general geekery in any shape or form. Instead, this is going to be a bit of a PSA on Crohn’s disease. If that doesn’t interest you (and I wouldn’t interest me in your shoes then good day and don’t let the X button hit you on the way out)
“Crohn’s Disease is inflammatory bowel disorder that can affect any part of any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus” at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me. To me though Crohn’s is something bigger. Crohn’s is the reason I wake up at night in pain, Crohn’s is the reason why I fear going to the toilet, Crohn’s is the reason I shit blood.
As with any condition, Crohn’s affects the sufferers life in a number of different ways. The first is the obvious physiological issues, the lack of energy, loss of appetite and the chronic bowel issues. These make can make everyday life painful and exhausting. The second wave of changes that follow are far more pernicious and troubling, it makes you afraid of a rumbling stomach, of wiping to clean yourself up and awaiting the results of another blood test.
In 2011, I was 17 and an idiot. It was my last year of school and I was ready to leave for the university if I got the grades. It was the time of the sixth form musical and I was to play Mr Sowerberry, a minor role in Oliver! Originally it was just a speaking role but a need to bulk out the show lead producers to add in my song two weeks before opening night, one of those weeks I was due to spend in Germany on a school trip. Opening night came and I was terrified, my stomach was rumbling, I had ten minutes to go to the toilet before I was needed so I ran off. After relieving myself I was calm, ready to give it my all, I only needed to clean myself up.
That was the first time I ever noticed the blood.
There was no pain, no constant drip, only the scarlet infused brown on the tissue to warn me something was up. Suddenly all thoughts of the musical, nerves and my song were gone, replaced by a fear for my life. I can never remember how the show went, I remember the morning after having some young year 7 tell me that his mum thought I was the best bit (Which was bullshit because our Fagin kicked ass).
The next two nights went off without a hitch, no blood in sight. It was an anomaly, a quirk, something that didn’t need to be told to my parents. I was of course wrong.
The following weeks went on like this, a few days of nothing followed by another bloody event. I was losing weight at an alarming rate. To most this would be worrying but as someone who had always been pudgy this was wonderful, at last I was starting to look good. I remember getting a few compliments and started to have some confidence in my appearance. As the weight continued to fall the compliments stopped and the concerned questions began to arise.
It was a surprisingly bright day in April and so I and my friends were playing on the field when I first noticed a thing in my buttock. Maybe I just pulled a muscle or something, I tried not to pay it too much attention. Five days later I couldn’t walk.
I’d developed what’s called a Perianal Abscess: An insulated infection that had developed in the tissue of my buttock and which made my left leg incredibly painful to move. After a visit by a GP I was sent to a hospital, the abscess was drained and I was checked out that same day on a heady mix of painkillers. I was lucky, as unpleasant as the abscess was it finally allowed doctors to find out what was happening to me.
The doctors were certain it was Crohn’s but need to be sure and so I was given a Colonoscopy, which put simply is having a camera on the end of hose pipe slide up my ass to take a cheeky look around. It was unpleasant, but it gave me a name “Crohn’s”. Like some of you reading this, I’d never heard of Crohn’s disease until I was told I had it. First I was afraid, I was petrified (Sorry had to do that) was this a death sentence? was my short life to be cut even shorter at the age of 17?
No, , Crohn’s isn’t a death sentence. But it did alter my life. At 17 here in Britain, I had to do my A-Levels to see if I got the grades to go to my chosen university. This didn’t go well. My revision was foiled by a constant lack of energy and living on some of the most powerful painkillers money can buy (But since we have the NHS it was free, god bless the NHS). For weeks I didn’t attend school, I couldn’t, instead watching four seasons of House and visiting the GP every day for a check up. You see the fun thing about an Abscess is that you can’t seal it shut, it has to heal naturally, this meant I had two assholes, with one that had to be stuffed every day by a nurse (You’re giggling aren’t you?) for a month while it healed. This has left me with a pretty nifty scar on my ass that you can look at if you pay me a quid.
That was 4 years ago and how much has changed. I managed to get into my first choice uni thanks to the baffling lunacy of that places admissions policy, got a decent degree (2:1 in creative writing if you’re interested in why I’m unemployable) and I still live with Crohn’s. During this time I was on a range of medications that made me fat (That and my Panda like laziness), sucker punched my liver but typically made me feel better than worse. For a time, I was off them completely, but now I’m back on them.
You see what inspired me to write this was the pain I’ve been in of late. Since about January of this year I began feeling the old gripes of Crohn’s coming back, I tried to ride it out but that’s not a wise thing to do, so I went to my GP and got dragged up again. The meds don’t work overnight however and every day I wake up thinking “Will this hurt?”. I occasionally see blood in my stool and it frightens me, it never won’t. Sometimes after a meal I’ll think “I shouldn’t have eaten that” and wait close to the toilet in case of emergency.
Crohn’s at it’s worst can rule your life. A healthy person so rarely has to consider where the nearest toilet is in any given situation but with Crohn’s It’s something I always need to be aware of in case of being caught short. I consider myself lucky with how the condition has been with me, I’ve yet to truly have a life threatening issue arise* but some day in the future Crohn’s may open the way for something worse such as Prostate Cancer or another infection of some description.
If you’ve never heard of Crohn’s disease before now I hope you leave this feeling you understand the issue a little better. It’s likely that someone in your life has the condition, one similar or will develop it in the future and so you’ll understand their struggle better and not just call it “A dicky tummy”. For those that do have it and are suffering from it on a daily basis, I’m sorry, but you’re better it and It will get better
P.S Science, I love you and all but could we please get a cure for this? Like now.
*Thanks to modern medicine, 200 years in the past and I would have died at 17, yeesh