Taking it One Bag at a Time

The hardest thing in the world is to learn to accept that you can’t change or control what happens to you.  Today, I’ve gained some good news–and although it’s not something I’m totally comfortable sharing with everyone today, I hope to eventually be able to share all that I’ve learned through the process of being sick.  I’ve learned that I have to be my best advocate for myself.  If I don’t think something is ok, I say so-especially when it comes to my medical care.  If I think I should have an IV in my arm versus my hand-I will say so.  Where as, in the beginning, I was more timid and unable to voice my thoughts for fear I wasn’t right. When it comes to your body and your life-whatever you think is best for you -is.  It took me many surgeries and years to come to this conclusion.

The Stress of living with this illness can be almost unbearable at times-I’ve said this before…I have to concentrate to concentrate.  It’s hard, this disease is one of the worst situations I’ve ever had to deal with.  There are days when I feel like I can do this, and then there are days when I know I can’t do it.

Lately, I’m struggling to keep weight on.  (I know, I know…poor me.)  But it’s not fun to have your clothes hang off of you–espeically when you like the clothes you own.  I’ve never known the struggle of being “thin” until I got sick.  Then I learned quickly, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  Even the smallest ostomy belt doesn’t fit because it’s pulled as tight as it will go-but it’s still not tight enough.  The struggle is real, and my real point is–the struggle is real for everyone.  Everyone has something, or many things they don’t like about themselves.  I’ve become extremely insecure with my body since gaining a bag.  I know most ostomates are proud and wear their bag as a symbolic badge for courage–and I commend every one of you who see it as a strength.  I unfortunately, see it as my weakness.  I’m not comfortable with it and it constantly feels foreign to me.  I’m not writing this as a “poor me” blog-but I’m writing this for everyone else who also hates their bag today.  It’s ok to hate it, and it’s ok to love it–and it’s even ok to have a love/hate relationship with it.  The bag saved us, but it also replaces a piece of us that could no longer manage to survivie in our bodies.  In a way, every day I mourn the loss of my colon and the representation of what it meant for me to have it.  Normalcy.  Having a colon is “normal”-so it would only make sense that having that creates a sense of normalcy.  On the flip side, I feel this is also why so many of us are desperate to pop any drug into our mouths that may even offer a slight chance of hope for normalcy.  The hardest thing is rembering and reminding oursleves everyday that we are a version of normal–our normal-but it’s taken me years to convince myself of this and I’m still working on it.

Along the way, through anal manometry testing, dilations, pokes and probes I’ve learned that no matter what curve ball life throws-I can do it.  I’ve had procedures that would make you squeemish at the thought, and I’ve been so close to death’s door that almost anything else seems trivial.  Yet somhow, I push through.  Sometimes it’s hour by hour and sometimes it’s day by day-but I keep pushing through.  I’m setting goals and achieving them, and I’m remembering the important things about life once again. Taking it one bag at a time, we get by with a little help from our ostomies.

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A Hair Milestone 💁🏻💇🏻

We’ve all heard the hashtags #longhairdontcare but for me it was #shorthairdontcare-except I did.  Almost a year ago to the day, I decided I had had enough of my hair falling out all over the bathroom floor.  It was not only a nightmare to clean up after, but the feeling of my hair falling down my body in clumps while in the shower brought me to tears almost daily.  As if I hadn’t gone through enough, I was now losing so much of my hair.  I always tried to maintain a positive attitude and thought to myself, it can always be worse and at least there’s regrowth.  Recalling my feelings, even now, brings tears to my eyes.  Until this point I had been able to hide what was wrong under my clothes-but when my hair all fell out I couldn’t hide the true torture I was enduring anymore.  Anyone who has ever known me, including my hair stylist of nearly four years, has known me with long, thick beautiful hair.  I was blessed with great genes (thanks mom!) and my hair has always been my thing, my pride.  I have my cosmetology license and have always been into styling and doing my hair.  Even as a middle schooler, I can recall waking up early to curl or straighten my hair.  It was always my thing.  That is, until July 1, 2015 when I had no choice but to have it all cut off.  I always knew I’d write about the experience of losing all my hair, until now though, I haven’t felt comfortable enough to do that.  Even after I got the pixie cut, which everyone in my life admired but me, I always reminded myself that at least I have hair.  I was never bald, and I can’t even imagine what that is like for other’s who’ve endured losing every bit of hair they had.  However, at moments it made me feel less feminine and very insecure.  Every time anyone would compliment my hair, I felt compelled to tell them why it was so short.  Usually I would be vague and say something to the effect of, “I didn’t have a choice, but thank you.”  As I was reminiscing with my hair dresser last month, I reminded him that a year ago was when we chopped it all off (or what was left of it).  I have come so far in a year, and although I have a hell of a long way left to go-pictures are a reminder of how far I’ve come.

I wanted to share, how I feel, my hair has grown so much because I do believe it is in large part to taking the vitamin, Biotin.  You can get it anywhere, any store that sells vitamins-it has helped me tremendously.  I was blessed with a thick, dark, Italian head of hair.  My mom would remind me often, that she had so much heartburn while pregnant with me.  And as a result I was born with a full head of hair.  Genetics are key, but biotin (I feel) was also the key.

After I cut my hair, I was devastated (to say the least)-and my mom’s friend who has known me nearly all of my life sent me this message and I wont ever forget it.  She said, “Hi, Jerica-when your mom first told me about your hair falling out I was completely heartbroken for you.  So much of who we are is literally tied up in our hair (unfortunately).  Then your mom told me that you were thinking about cutting it short & I couldn’t imagine how devastating that must have been.  But knowing what a beautiful face you have, I was certain that you could pull it off.  Well, your mom just sent me a picture of your hair (the one with the bangs).  Jerica, you look AMAZING, GORGEOUS, I love, love it! I knew you would be beautiful! Xoxo”  Throughout the year, this text is something I’ve reread because it is so true-so much of who we are is LITERALLY tied up in our hair.  I gained a confidence I didn’t know I had, and I appreciate so much more the little things- like being able to put my hair in a half ponytail (as I’m still not able to fully put it all up yet).  I feel blessed, and I’m so thankful for the hair that I can pull up.  In fact, the day I was able to use my old ponytail holders again, was one of the most exciting days I’ve had-it was a hair milestone!

Today, I wanted to share with you (a year later) my hair milestone and to say thank you to everyone who reminded me that throughout the process of growing it back that I was still beautiful.  Especially my husband, who continuously told me he loved it-and meant it!  We don’t always love the hands we’re dealt in life, but if you can learn to love and enjoy the game it makes the bad hands easier to handle.

🌎👁🐝D

Today is world IBD day…a day to educate one another about the different types of inflammatory bowel diseases.  I stopped to think about what world IBD day really means to me.  Some of the words that came to mind were brave, purple, strong, support, steps, courage, fear, strength, pain, and awareness.  What I write, the world might read.  Words are powerful.  The day I was diagnosed-with just one word, my world changed.  Colitis.  I’m going to do my best to get through this blog post without a tear today-and so far so good.

 

What I believe a few of my IBD friends would want me to say…we are strong.  Mentally and physically we’re fighting all the time.  We’re fighting to make it through the day, and in a way we’re magicians too.  We hide the problems so no one else can see.  We pretend most of the time that everything is ok-when really we are counting down the hours until it’s an acceptable time to crawl back into bed.  In fact, most days-my biggest accomplishment might be staying awake all day long (usually this doesn’t happen-which is why it’s an accomplishment).

We take pills, and meds and more pills until we’re blown up on prednisone.  This is the reality of an IBD patient.  Since no one knows what causes it–truly–and everyone’s body is unique, there isn’t one clear cut way to manage IBD patients.  So typically, I’ve found, doctors treat the symptoms instead of the disease (but not before giving  Apriso and Lialda whirl).  You’re bleeding-try Prednisone.  You’re tired-take iron.  You’re nauseas-take Zofran.  You’re in pain…now wait a minute…how much pain..on a scale of 1-10.  Ok, so my answer is usually 7/8…because in my opinion there’s what we call “tolerable” and “intolerable pain.”  IBD patients know, pain is inevitable –it just is.  Therefore, if we’re in pain and we’re actively seeking out help it’s for a reason.  If we had a slight pain, we’d be out doing something we enjoy.  Ok, so the pain is a 7…take Hydrocodone or Dilaudid.  Your back hurts… try Lidocaine patches.  Things still aren’t going well…let’s try 6MP..it’s a chemo pill but it’ll be ok.  All the while, we keep swallowing pills and trying to keep the symptoms at bay.  Have you ever met those people who say, “I don’t like to take pills”–and you think…they don’t know how bad a pill is until they’ve tried to swallow a potassium pill.  Those potassium pills are no joke!  We’ve also met those people who cringe at the sight of blood or getting an IV put in…and again we think…they don’t know pain until they’ve had to have potassium intravenously pumped into them (which burns like fire in your veins).  Oh and by the way, I’ve had/used all of the above.  So you can’t sleep because you’re up going to the bathroom in conjunction with the Prednisone that (had I known in college keeps you awake-I might have been able to pull an all nighter better–kidding mom)…but seriously…Prednisone is the devil in pill form.  It keeps you wired…so…try Ambien they say–it’ll help they said.  HA!  If I had a dollar for every time a doctor told me to try something, I’d have enough money to have a lab created colon made.  I could go on for days, the point is…IBD is hard.  They can pump all these miscellaneous drugs into our veins but at the end of the day–we’re stuck.  We’re at the mercy of all these doctors and specialists.  At times, it feels like the blind leading the blind.  Oh…you’re also feeling sad/miserable/depressed because you have a disease that you didn’t plan for and you’re life now revolves around where the closest bathroom is…take Zoloft, Lexipro or Wellbutrin (dealer’s choice really).  If you think I’m utilizing humor mixed with a side of sarcasm to lighten this blog up–you’re right.  The funniest things are true…and I am by no means even stretching the truth.

Awareness is crucial to the success of discovering a cure.  One day, one step at a time we’re all trying to help solve what seems unsolvable.  Through support groups I’ve made friends, we all have similar symptoms have taken similar drugs and understand the affects–but we’re all different and we don’t understand how this happened to us.  All diagnosed before the age of 30 with different backgrounds, different genetic makeup, yet we all have one thing in common-IBD.


 

 

Happy Anniversary 🐌

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I tried my best to write a blog entry but was unsuccessful (multiple times).  You see when I share my story…it sometimes causes me mental distress to do it.  I relive the situations so others understand and become aware that this can happen to anyone at any time.  I also do it to avoid those awkward conversations that could frankly take hours for me to really tell you how I am or how I feel.  Today is the one year anniversary of my snail and although I get mad at it often…and hate the pain it causes me on a daily basis it has saved my life more than once.  I couldn’t write a long blog this time..because my tears got in the way.  I usually try to only post positive, upbeat and heartfelt blog posts. However, the truth is…I’m sad, mad, grateful, and beyond blessed today.  Thank you to all my friends and family who help remind me everyday that I’m still me.  I’m a wife, a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a daughter-in-law, a best friend, a friend, and someday I hope to be an inspiration to others.