A continuation of my faith journey with Crohns disease.
Having survived my first surgery, my next step was to retrain myself in a career with a future. It started with an incredibly awful job for a small tech company. Things got better with a job as a phone jockey working at a national long distance company. I worked third shift, so the hours were not great… neither was the pay. But the fact that I was working at all, providing for my family in some way, was a great relief… at least I was doing SOMETHING.
It was during this time that my health took another interesting turn. It started at an ice skating party my daughter attended. I went out on the ice with my daughter and assisted her with keeping her keester off the ice. The next day my ankles were swollen and sore. Since this was the first exercise I had participated in since my surgery, I thought I was just out of shape.
The ankles continued to be sore… slowly other joints in my body started to ache. A few weeks passed and I started to feel nauseous, worn down. I thought I had the flu. The flu was going around work, so that must be it. Then canker sores started appearing in my mouth… ah, it’s not the flu, but a virus! Okay, I just have to ride it out.
My appetite dropped considerably as this “virus” was taking weeks to pass. Then a canker sore appeared on one of my eyes and I could no longer wear contacts. This was some virus! I started to lose weight, which I didn’t mind because I had gained some unwanted pounds from the side effects of the medicine I took after my surgery. Cool, that’s not so bad.
My joints hurt, I had 14 canker sores in my mouth, another one on my eye, my appetite was gone, I was nauseous most of the time, I was losing weight… writing all of these things down at once, it’s pretty obvious this was not a virus. But, when it takes months for all of this occur, you don’t equate one with the other. My wife started pleading with me to see the doctor. I refused. “It’s not Crohns!” I said, “I’ve had it for 10 years, I know what it’s like.” And, on some level, I just couldn’t mentally bear being sick again. So I entered another state of denial.
My weight continued to drop. I was getting weaker every day. At one point, I could not complete an eight hour day sitting at a desk answering a phone. I would go out to my car during lunch and take a nap, to get through the next four hours. After I’d get off work, I’d go right home and go to sleep.
Things deteriorated quickly after that until one Friday morning… I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize my reflection. I can’t explain what that moment was like… you see yourself everyday, yet the person looking back at me wasn’t me. It was eerie. My weight had dropped so much that I could see all of my bones. My face was gaunt… I looked like my brother Paul in high school. I knew I was in trouble.
I called Dr. Boyd’s office and told them I needed to see him as soon as possible. The earliest opening was Monday morning… I had to wait almost 72 hours. Those 72 hours were terrifying. I spent the weekend in bed. I could feel my organs starting to shut down. I had no energy. I was scared. I was dying.
My wife drove me to the doctors office and, upon looking at my, Dr. Boyd said it was Crohns. I repeated my denial “I’ve had this for 10 years! I know what Crohns is and this isn’t it.” He handed me a book. “You can keep it,” he said. He flipped open the book and said “Read this.” The book was the Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis Handbook. The chapter was called Secondary Symptoms of Crohns. As I read the list, one by one, I checked them off. I got this, I got that, I have this too. I simply looked up, defeated. I should have listened to my wife months ago.
Dr. Boyd took some of my blood and put me on prednisone again, to get my appetite back. Every time you take prednisone, it’s kinda like being pregnant. You have urges for different foods each time you take it. One time it was Oreos. Another it was scrambled eggs. This time it was Cocoa Puffs.
Upon my return to the doctors office for my follow up, Dr. Boyd held my chart in his hands and looked at my wife and me, perplexed. He started, with his smooth Southern drawl, “You know, Pete, your blood work showed that your liver function response was extremely abnormal. It was so odd I had to look it up. The only literature I could find was an African study. You were so emaciated that your liver response was equal to starving children in Ethiopia.”
My wife slugged my arm. “I told you to see the doctor! Listen to me next time!” she reiterated. She then turned to Dr. Boyd, “All he wants to eat is Cocoa Puffs. Shouldn’t he be eating fruits and vegetables?” The doctor responded “He just needs calories. I don’t care how. At this point, he just needs calories.”
Ethiopian children… geez. I had almost starved myself to death. What else was this disease going to do to me? What other challenges was it going to throw my way? My faith remained strong, however. I continued to offer up my illness to God so that my suffering could be used for his greater good. But, just how much suffering did God expect me to take?
My weight eventually came back… most of it. My wife had always been pleased with the way God had created my derriere. During this last event, however, I not only lost fat, but muscle mass. Much to my wife’s chagrin, my buttocks have never looked the same. This baby has no longer got back.
I slowly moved up the food chain at work and things were looking good… except the five year clock was ticking and another surgery was inevitable.
To be continued…