The Girl Behind the Ninja Mask

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We hadn’t even been dating a year when the symptoms hit me. Dave and I were about three weeks away from our 1st dating anniversary. I had convinced myself that it was a stomach bug, but as time went on, I realized that I probably needed a doctor.

On January 15th, 2011 I had traveled three hours to go to his best friend’s wedding. I was definitely sick but as Dave firmly, but kindly reminded me, I didn’t have much of a choice! I’d promised the bride I would be her proxy at the rehearsal.

We got through the actual rehearsal, but I was feeling like garbage. My head was pounding. I was nauseated and I had diarrhea (understatement). We arrived at the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner and when I walked into the restroom, women were everywhere; some were applying makeup at the vanity, others washing their hands, there was a line out the door and a woman in every stall.

I walked out of the restroom and found Dave.

Dave and me at the wedding. I don't look sick, do I?

“Baby, I don’t feel well.”

He looked annoyed, but after telling him I thought I was going to be sick, we went back to the car. He drove 45 minutes out of his way to drop me off at a friend’s house where I was staying. I went to sleep and didn’t feel much better when I woke up the next morning.

We drove out to the wedding early because they had to do pictures. I was in and out of the bathroom. I had no idea what was going on, but it wasn’t good.

At one point before the actual wedding, I received a pretty big shock. I had seen blood in the toilet before… here and there, but this was the first time that I produced nothing but a pool of dark red blood in the bottom of the toilet. No poop. Just blood. Must be some really bad hemorrhoids.

Somehow I got through that weekend and went to the doctor who told me it was probably just a bacterial infection or IBS. She send me home with a round of antibiotics and a stool sample collection kit and told me to come back with a sample if it got worse.

Three weeks later, I was lying on my bed in a mega amount of pain. I called my mom. Perhaps I had appendicitis! She had to have hers out when she was 18! That had to be it. No answer. Then I called Dave.

You can definitely tell I'd lost some weight in this photo. I was also very pale.

“Hey Babe… I think there’s something seriously wrong with me. I’m in so much pain and my stomach is so upset!”

Angry and annoyed, he said, “Go to the doctor!”

“Wh-what?”

“Go to the doctor! I’m tired of hearing you complain.”

“David?” I asked.

“What?!”

“Have you ever seen blood in the toilet?”

“No.”

“Well, I am!”

“Just go to the doctor! And there had better be something wrong with you!”

I cried. I just knew that relationship was going to end. And maybe I wasn’t that sick. Here I am complaining about a little tummy ache. Probably nothing.

I went back to the doctor with my stool sample. When the doctor saw how much blood was in it, she scheduled me for an emergency colonoscopy. I immediately started the prep that day. No eating for the rest of the day and MoviPrep that night.

It was horrible… but I got through it and the next day my mother took me to get scoped. When I woke up, the doctor told me that I either had Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. I immediately turned to my mother.

“You have Crohn’s!”

“Yep.” She replied.

Despite that fact that both Mom and my aunt have Crohn’s, none of us realized that it could be hereditary. Mom took me to get my prescriptions filled and I waited for my diagnosis that followed a week later. In the meantime, my general physician wanted me back in the office to check my bloodwork.

The doctor came in with the news: “Your blood count has dropped 6 points in a week. You’re down to 26 which is bad even for an elderly person. You could really use two units of blood, but I’m only going to schedule you for one.”

And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt like a zombie as I walked to my car. I picked up the phone to call Dave.

I yelled, I cursed, I wept bitterly. It had been the worst week of my life. I was now, and forever would be, a sick person. Dave was surely going to dump me.

Me and my Valentine goodies after getting my blood transfusion.

“Sweetheart,” he said simply, “I’m on my way there now. Go home, get some sleep, and I’ll go with you to your blood transfusion.”

I went home and waited for Dave. I slept the rest of the afternoon. When Dave got there (he lived three hours away), he said it was then that he realized just how serious it was. I was weak, thin and pale.

We spent the whole weekend together. He went with me to my blood transfusion. As it was Valentine’s Day weekend, we exchanged our Valentines. Two days after Valentine’s Day, I got my diagnosis: ulcerative colitis.

Dave didn’t break up with me. In fact, just six months later he proposed and we were married two months after that (we didn’t want a long engagement).

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So that’s my diagnosis story. And here I sit five years later. Life with IBD has been a roller coaster ride. It’s scary. It often feels lonely. But I’m here to tell you that having a chronic illness doesn’t mean you can’t live a full life. It doesn’t mean you’ll never find love. Dave has been my rock. He had so many opportunities to leave me over the six years I’ve known him, but he’s been faithful and for that I am thankful.