Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. 7:15 a.m. I turn off my alarm and swing my legs to the side of the bed, resting my feet on the floor in preparation to get up. I pause, and take a long, deep breath. I repeat the same mantra in my head as I had done for the past 24 hours, over and over again: “Everything will be fine. I’m fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Little did I know at the time that this day would leave such a traumatic memory and inevitably change the course of my life.
12 p.m. I wake up. I’m lying in a hospital bed. I look down at the nurse removing the IV in my arm. I start to feel the first glimmer of hope that this whole colonoscopy experience is finally done. I’ll get a quick and easy prescription to fix whatever has been going on and never have to do this again. My doctor then walks in. She asks how I’m feeling. I tell her I’m starving. She laughs and says, “Well, the good news is that you can eat now. The bad news is that you have Crohn’s disease.”
I thought maybe my half-asleep comatose state was messing with me. I say, “What? What do you mean? Are you sure you mean Crohn’s?”
I had actually recently learned about Crohn’s disease in pharmacy school, so I was at least decently familiar with what it is. She goes on to briefly explain how I have a section of severe inflammation at the terminal ileum, which is where your small intestine connects to your large intestine, and how this is usually a typical presentation of Crohn’s disease. She quickly nods and says, “OK?” Then she starts turning around to leave, as if that should have been plenty of explanation.
I stop her and begin to beg for more details. What caused this? How did this happen? What else could this be besides Crohn’s? What am I supposed to do? Of course, there are no answers to these questions. And my doctor certainly wasn’t going to try to answer them. Overall, I received very little information, most of which I only remember in pieces. From the anesthesia wearing off, to my current state of shock, I was in no place to be able to effectively retain any information.
However, I will undoubtedly always remember the horrific manner in which my doctor delivered my diagnosis. Almost equivalent to a fast food restaurant -- providing services as quickly and efficiently as possible. Couldn’t be bothered to waste time with empathy.
Before I knew it, my doctor had already left. I start to cry, feeling extremely overwhelmed by every sensation. My arms are already starting to bruise from multiple needle sticks for my IV, my stomach is killing me, I can’t tell if the nausea is from starvation or my exploding anxiety, and I felt alone.
1:30 p.m. I finally make it back home and feel everything crashing down around me. It feels like everything I’ve worked for, looked forward to, and planned for is just over. This chronic condition was going to change my life and I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I spent the rest of the day researching online every worst-case scenario possible and continued doing this for hours on end every day. This led me into a depression that lasted for months.
I got very few answers over the course of the next year. I had a follow-up with my doctor who did that first colonoscopy, and essentially wasn’t told anything different from my original diagnosis date. She was also very uninterested in hearing my opinions about my own condition, which inevitably prompted me to switch to my current gastroenterologist who has been amazing. With him, I have been able to find the right treatment and develop a high-quality patient-provider relationship.
I think back to that day in December and can’t believe how different my life is now. I had become so accustomed to feeling bad all the time that I couldn’t differentiate between healthy and sick anymore. But I was right when I thought Crohn’s was going to change my life. I just didn’t know it would change for the better.
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