An Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis

Lauren Gillihan
By Anabell Jimenez

Something I never anticipated happening became a very big part of my life 2 years ago.

I was diagnosed with the chronic disease Ulcerative Colitis. For those of you who may not be familiar, it is an irritable bowel disease that affects a person’s colon, their large intestines (not to be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome).

How it all began

December of 2013 I started experiencing symptoms I initially thought was from a stomach virus. When they didn’t resolve, but became worse, and I began to experience other frightening symptoms, we decided it was time for me to visit my clinic.

My doctor ran a few tests and sent me home with instructions for eating a bland diet to see if it didn’t resolve on its own. A couple of days later the tests came back clear–no bacteria, no parasite, no answers.

When things didn’t get better but instead got worse–10-12 bowel movements a day along with bleeding and other very disturbing symptoms–making it uncomfortable for me to even leave the house, I went straight back to my doctor.

This time I was scheduled to have a colonoscopy. I still felt miserable, but at least I had hope that I would get some answers.

Waiting can be challenging, right?

So, I began to look around the on the internet (trying to stay on reputable pages), to see if I could figure out what was happening to me based on my symptoms. That can get scary! Because of this research, though, I was able to narrow it down to three things I thought it might be.

I believed, best case scenario I had irritable bowel syndrome, worse case scenario cancer, and somewhere in-between an irritable bowel disease like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns.

I am not a physician, but because of the excellent information out there these days by medical organizations and doctors on bowel issues, I felt pretty confident that it was one of the three.

Of course, I really hoped it wasn’t cancer. I decided to only look further into cancer if that was my diagnosis. I would face that bridge only if I had to. I read up on the others to prepare myself, just in case.

Probiotics really helped

One of the things I found was that some people with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns had success with their symptoms lessening simply from taking probiotics. Having nothing to lose, I decided to give it a try. Within a couple of days of taking a dose of a high-quality coconut kefir twice a day, my bowel movements were cut in half!

I still take probiotics to this day. The coconut kefir I bought was a little pricey. I now ferment my own vegetables at home and eat those on a daily basis. I also take a scoop of primal defense morning and night, as well.

The colonoscopy

Although I knew that a colonoscopy was necessary, and I even desired to have one done, I still felt nervous about the whole process. I would be lying if I said the entire affair was easy.

The actual colonoscopy itself, since you are put to sleep, was a breeze and the fasting up to it really wasn’t that bad either. The most difficult part wasn’t cleaning out my colon so much as it was the gallon-sized solution they had me drink in intervals. It tasted terrible.

If you are facing a colonoscopy, I highly recommend having gum or mints available to put in your mouth each time after drinking the solution. That helped me a lot!  Plus, lots of good reading material and a comfortable seat close to the toilet.

My diagnosis and journey

The morning of the colonoscopy, Brance and the girls sat in the waiting room all sweet and brave. I felt the procedure went quickly, although they said otherwise ;).

Afterwards, the gastroenterologist sat down with Brance and I and described what was going on. I did indeed have Ulcerative Colitis. It was a little frightening to have him warn me that it was very likely that I would need surgery down the road to remove a portion of my colon. Yikes.

And then I was sent home with 2 prescription medications and a pamphlet to grapple with my new life.

These last two years have been a journey for our little family. One of the biggest things for me has been adjusting to the permanency of my diagnosis. I am a fixer by nature. But, UC is a chronic disease and bar a miracle it is not going anywhere. Sure, a person can experience a period of remission. But, as my doctor warned, it will most likely come back.

I haven’t experienced remission, yet. But I have been fortunate to control my Ulcerative Colitis through minimal medication and dietary adjustments. For me, probiotics and a low sugar/dairy diet have made a big difference. It has also been important for me to avoid stress.

As of last year, because of the improvement I made, my doctor cut back my medication–definitely something we celebrated.

What I am learning

One of the things UC is teaching me is that life is not perfect and never will be. As a recovering perfectionist, this has been a big deal. And that while I can’t change the fact that I have Ulcerative Colitis, I can change my attitude and my experience. I can have gratitude for the little successes and for the ways it is helping me grow. I can still be happy.

Through it, I am learning to be thankful for the less than perfect in this messy thing we  call life. And, do you know what? There is still a lot to be thankful for.