Patient Blogs | Ulcerative Colitis
Coming to Terms With Ulcerative Colitis
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Prior to being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis 5 years ago, I considered myself a very healthy person. I ate well, got enough sleep, and ran regularly. I wasn’t sick very often and had never been hospitalized. In fact, when I was looking for a new primary care physician about a decade ago, the doctor mentioned she was happy to take me on as a patient because I had no health issues. I was an easy keeper.

Coming to terms with my chronic illness hasn’t been easy. Although I never asked, “Why me?” in the sense of “How could this happen to ME?” I did wonder, “What caused my condition?” I was also extremely frustrated when a series of medications failed to control my symptoms. Previously, any time I had been sick, I either got over it relatively quickly or the first medication I was prescribed worked.

With ulcerative colitis, I tried medication after medication and nevertheless it slowly got worse. Then, when I had a successful 4-year run with a biologic, that medication stopped working for me as well. Fortunately, another biologic is currently controlling my symptoms.

One of the questions I struggle to answer is how healthy I am, a question sometimes asked on medical appointment surveys. Before my diagnosis, I would have answered “very healthy” or 9 out of 10, if given a 10-point scale. I don’t know how to answer that question now. Although medication controls my symptoms, without that medication I would be very sick and probably wouldn’t have a colon. So, am I very healthy, healthy, or not very healthy? I’m not sure.

Another thing that was difficult to come to terms with was how much all of my medical care costs. Although I know that it’s not my fault that I have ulcerative colitis and require expensive medication, I still occasionally feel bad about how much my care costs. In my mind, I went from being a health insurance “giver” to a “taker.” When I told my gastroenterologist about my feelings, he bluntly said: “Don’t think about it.” 

It was good advice because I didn’t do anything to cause my condition. I can’t help that I have ulcerative colitis. I also can’t help that the U.S. health care system is the way it is. Most of us are health insurance “givers” at some points in our lives and “takers” at other points. If I lived in a country that guaranteed health care for every citizen, I probably wouldn’t think about it as much.

I’m happy to report that my mental health is much better than it was a few years ago. Slowly but surely, I’ve been able to come to terms with having ulcerative colitis.



Photo Credit: Jaime Kowal / Photodisc via Getty Images

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Brett Gaul

Brett Gaul

Diagnosed since 2016

Brett Gaul has lived with ulcerative colitis since 2016. A philosophy professor, Gaul enjoys sharing his passion for philosophy and helping students live more meaningful and successful lives. When he’s not having interesting dinner conversations with his history professor wife and three children, he likes reading, running, and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. 

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