The message was clear…

I try not to dwell on the past but in order to understand me, this disease, and why I am the way I am today-living with part of my intestine protruding out of my body with a bag attached to my side-I have to share it.  On the days that I feel like crying, giving up, or hiding from the world…I write.  I write from the depths of my soul and I share my story to help other’s feel like they aren’t alone in this journey.  With that being said…this is the transition from Pomerado Hospital to going home.

By this point it was weeks of being told that once my platelet count was good, I could go home.  After a month and a half in Pomerado Hospital I was ready to leave.  However, my Doctors insisted that my platelet count had to be a certain number before I could be released.  Every morning, during morning rounds, I’d ask my numbers-and do my best to remember the answer by the time my mom and mother in law showed up.  Still on Dilaudid daily, mixed with Benadryl and other medicines, it was hard to recall a lot.  However, I remember the morning my Doctor came in and said that I could go home.  I was so excited to get home to my puppies and to be able to sleep in my own bed.  At this point I still had the picc line in my neck-and I remember my husband being the only brave soul in the room to stay and watch as they pulled this long tube that went in through my neck and was (for lack of better words) sticking into my heart.  It takes a lot to make a Marine weak in the knees..and twice now he’s had to endure the same displeasure of seeing his wife having long tubes pulled out of her.  Nonetheless, he didn’t faint and for his strength during a difficult time, I will always be grateful.  I remember when the tube was being removed, the Doctor asking me, “Do you want a picture of this…” and I couldn’t bring myself to look at the tube (approximately the length of my arm) long enough to get a picture.  Looking back now, I wish I had-but who knew I’d have such a long story to tell.

On the drive home from Pomerado Hospital, with my husband, I remember crying tears of happiness and sadness.  I was so happy to finally be out of the hospital, after being stuck there for so long. Everything seemed new, after a month and a half of pure hell…I was in the car and listening to the radio.  The world certainly didn’t stop because I was sick, and the new songs on the radio were music to my ears-literally.  It was the strangest feeling, but I remember getting into my car (the passenger seat) and just feeling the sunshine beam into the car as we drove home.  It felt amazing, with the sun glistening against my snow-white skin tone, I remember feeling free-finally free.  It was the little things that I took for granted before…like riding in the car…that now..felt entirely different to me.  I remember pivotal moments throughout my illness, the day I sat outside in the rain as my mom wheeled me around the parking lot while it sprinkled tiny rain droplets on my hospital gown, and the day I left Pomerado Hospital.  I remember the feeling of pure joy, that until then I’m not sure I experienced.  Pure joy, pure appreciation for life-my family and close friends.  It wasn’t a vacation (by any means).. but to me these different memories I have in and out of the hospital are some of the best memories and better than any vacation I have ever been on.

The sadness I felt was beyond words, but I’ll do my best to explain the unexplainable.  Imagine this, entering the hospital with hopes and high expectations that not only would my doctor fix what was wrong-but in turn make things all better.  I mean this is why they get paid the big bucks right?? This was not the case for me.  Not only was I told there was nothing else he could do, or offer me for pain relief, but now I was preparing myself mentally and physically for the next step.  When I left Pomerado Hospital, I already knew what was to come.  I already had an appointment with Dr. Sandborn (who came highly recommended from Dr. Lee).  I needed to prepare myself mentally as the inevitable was coming.  Through the process at Pomerado Hospital, and even into the first meeting with Dr. Sandborn-I had no idea that removing this diseased organ from my body would mean anything other than simply removing my colon.  However, it’s not that simple-and perhaps I was naïve, or perhaps I was in too much pain to understand all the options as they were presented to me over the past few months.  Either way, when Dr. Sandborn explained the process of removing my colon-I remember looking to my mom in shock.  With a look of fear and panic as if to say to her “their going to do what and put it where?”  As Dr. Sandborn suggested other drug therapies, which I quickly negated, the message was clear to him-surgery was MY only option and hope for relief.  Without any other solutions to offer-he provided the referral to see Dr. Sonia Ramamoorthy.


…The result was Ulcerative Colitis 💩💩💩

I remember arriving to the surgery center in Escondido and feeling anxious, not nervous, but anxious.  I was ready to get some answers-something concrete.  At this point I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to think the worst.  I thought he would find something simple-something that could easily be handled with a medication.  I arrived with my husband, and sat down to fill out the necessary paperwork.  They had The View on the television in the waiting room, so I watched and waited for my name to be called back to be prepped.  Finally, it was my turn.  The nurse called me back, and as she was putting the IV into my fresh, practically virgin veins, I remember her asking me why I was in today.  When she asked me this, there was almost a judgmental tone to her question.  As if, I was way too young to be having a colonoscopy.  Which, in retrospect, I can understand because as I recall the waiting room was full of much older individuals-at least in their 50’s.  But here I am-no makeup, pale and looking about 15 years old to this woman…and I’m getting prepped for what many people won’t experience until they are in their 50’s.  Speaking of experiences, let me back up to the night before.

The day before anyone does a colonoscopy they have to do this terrible, awful, disgusting prep for the bowels.  That’s right, a bowel prep, or as I’ve also heard it called-colon blow.  Not only does this stuff taste bad, and as I’m writing this I can feel my throat start to recall the horrible taste, but it also makes you have explosive diarrhea.  So here I am, home alone…it’s the day before my colonoscopy, and it was about 2PM and all I’ve been able to have that day is clear liquids.  So I start the prep, trying to go into this situation with an open mind-despite all the negative things I’ve heard over the years, when I literally start to gage.  (I guess this is where having a stoma later on would be considered a blessing.)  No colon=no colon blow!  So anyways, I’m sitting there gagging trying my best to be strong, when I start vomiting.  So I call Dr. Lee, and he allows me to have some saltine’s if I can get this colon blow down.  I must admit this did help a lot, although still extremely unpleasant.  I also remember facetiming with my mom in order to choke this down, as I mentioned I am home alone and my husband is still at work.  I was crying, in pain from the cramping and gagging- the whole bit.  Finally, after several hours of choking that crap down and having to run to the bathroom every four minutes, I am done for the night.  That is, until the next morning when I had to attempt to choke down another 8 ounces of the colon blow.  Which, by this time I was basically peeing clear out of my bum. So I only drank half of the dose recommended.  I figured, that was good enough!  I remember telling myself, you will only have to do this once.  A little naïve, I admit, but I never expected that I would have to take colon blow twice more before September.

So, I’m sitting in this mini prep room, when the nurse had asked me what brought me in today.  I told her I was there to have a colonoscopy and she asked what my symptoms were.  I explained about the bloody stools and I remember her response being, “Your too young to be sick, what do you do-is your job stressful?”   I thought for a moment and replied, “Yes, I have high sales goals and it is a stressful environment.”  I remember feeling stupid, because anyone who knows where I worked would think it was a dream job.  I, at the time, was employed by a luxury jewelry retailer.  So retail alone is hard, standing all day, constantly crouching down to get into small spaces-it’s hard on you mentally and physically.  Keep in mind when I first started having symptoms it was just after the hardest, and busiest sales Holiday of my career.  I was extremely stressed out, working six days a week and my husband had just returned from a 9 month deployment that had been exended twice.  So needless to say, yes, I had gone through a very hard and stressful December and sales Holiday.  However, did I ever think to blame either my job or my husband for the strss-absolutely not.  I chose both my job and my husband.  To this day, I sill wish I was working-and I wish that I was able to be at work instead of home and sick-however…we’ll save this topic for another blog day.  After I responded to the nurse she explained the procedure going forward.  I kissed my husband goodbye as he went into the waiting room.  I remember walking back into the surgery room and laying down on the bed that they had so nicely laid out for me.  It wasn’t long now until I was under local sedation and I remember, in a dazed state, seeing the screen to the side of me and seeing my insides on the TV.  Shortly after that I woke up.   As I was groggy and attempting to wake up, without having my glasses on everything was a blur, I could not see faces but I knew their voices.  My husband was next to me and so wasn’t Dr. Lee.  Dr. Lee explained that he had done biopsies, but he suspected it was Ulcerative Colitis.  I will never forget the tone of his voice, it was very kind, very soft and very empathetic.  It was as if he was giving me a life sentence he didn’t think I deserved, and later I would realize he was.  He said, I’m so sorry Jerica.”  Again, without my glasses I couldn’t see their faces but I heard my husband start to cry.  For the first time, I knew it was serious and I also knew that no test result would have to confirm Dr. Lee’s suspicion.  I had bleeding ulcers on my colon and the result was Ulcerative Colitis.