Being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease is probably the longest and most confusing part of the entire process. It took numerous months and endless tests before I had a confirmed IBD, which almost comes as a blessing when you’re finally able to give your illness a name and begin the process properly.
For me, it all began in 2014. It was the end of the Summer, and I was just about to open my first business, a small boutique clothes shop. I was naturally pretty damn stressed during this time and we all know it’s not uncommon to get a bit of a poorly tummy when you’re anxious or feeling pressurised. As the months rolled on, I noticed that the need to go to the toilet started to become increasingly noticeable, to the point where I found myself wanting to go almost hourly – and by this point, no solids were leaving my body. To have this level of diarrhoea day in, day out is both exhausting, embarrassing and fucking annoying, especially when you’re working by yourself in a shop every day of the week. At this time in my life, I would say that I was pretty private and prudish when it came to bowel movements or toilet activities, and so I kept it to myself and let it continue for 6 months. Naturally, things did not get better; they got worse. I finally plucked up the courage to register with a Doctor (so lazy) and made an appointment.
The thing with Crohn’s symptoms, is that they’re often confused with links to IBS. Let me tell it to you now, sister, suffering from an IBD and IBS are very different things (I swear if one more person compares their IBS to my Crohn’s I will explode). What my Doctor advised me was to spend the next few months cutting out certain food groups and keeping a food diary, to identify if I perhaps had an intolerance to something. When you know your body, you know your body and I practically begged him to offer another solution. I had lost over a stone in weight and my quality of life was becoming unbearable. I felt like I couldn’t function and that I had become a shell of my usual vibrant and annoying self. At the time, I was living with my boyfriend and his family and I could not bear going through the same shit routine (literally) anymore. Due to a rather unfortunately strong family background of Cancer and my worrying symptoms of losing both clotted and fresh blood through my toilet activities, he put me forward for a Bowel Cancer screening test. At such a young age, he made me aware that this was more of a precaution than a concern, but given the state I was in, found it a crucial step to get serious help.
The procedure itself was horrible. Lying on your side in a cold, sterile room, pants down round your ankles, knees up to your chin and three medical professionals peering over you (or behind you) is not how I usually spend my weekday mornings. I was then pumped with air to fully inflate my bowel or wherever part they were interested in, to the point where I thought I was going to burst. The pain and sheer discomfort of this was bad that I remember crying and squeezing the hand of Paul, the assistant nurse who was also in the room with me. Good old Paul, he was a really nice guy. After this, I was poked and prodded some more, before being told that the air would naturally ‘pass through’ and ‘not to be embarrassed as this is perfectly natural’. Don’t be embarrassed, are you actually kidding me pal? I’m a young woman in the most uncompromising and unattractive position, with a room full of people staring and prodding my arse and now you’re telling me to be cool with the fact that I’m going to have to trump out the gallons of gas you’ve blown me up with? I felt like the world’s unsexiest blow up doll who’d been used too dab-handedly and was now being left to deflate after it’s 5 minutes of action.
Luckily, I didn’t have bowel cancer but I was suspected with something else – but that I would need to come back to Hospital for a Colonoscopy to find out more. Knowing that I was going to have to come in, have a camera put up my bum and pushed through the entire length of my intestines was a bad enough thought – the fact that I had to basically starve myself for 24hours beforehand and then take 2 industrial strength laxative sachets was probably an even worse one.
The procedure itself wasn’t all that bad. You get sedated (although I definitely did not feel away with the fairies and was all too aware of what was going on and the pain I was in) and are in a day-unit ward, so you feel as at ease as you can be given the circumstances. The best thing though, was the gorgeous shorts you get. Blue paper shorts with a slit in the bum. Things like this just make you realise how bloody hilarious your life can be. There I was, a fashion graduate, in a hospital gown, slippers and flappy-bum shorts, with a camera weaved through the maze of my gut whilst I was watching it all unfold on the screen next to me. Whilst they’re in there, they also take several biopsies which feels like an elastic band being pinged on your internal walls. The whole process takes around an hour, maybe more, before you’re left to recover with all your other anally-violated pals. But in life, you really do have to look on the bright side, and once I had come round a little more, I was taken to a waiting room that felt more like an old people’s day home and supplied tea and toast (before my boyfriend picked me up and took me to McDonalds to gorge on chicken nuggets. Sorry stomach…)
And that, my dears, is how I found out that I had Crohn’s Disease.