Crohn's. Plain and simple.
That's my answer when asked what is something about 'my lot in life' that I have to deal with.
Here's the thing: most people don't even know I struggle with it. I am pretty good at keeping it under wraps except with those I am really close to. However, it has been a struggle throughout my life, at least since 4th grade when I started manifesting the symptoms. Of course, back then the doctors just thought I was making it up and trying to get attention for whatever reason (quite common with early Crohn's symptoms) but my mom knew something was wrong. So she kept taking me back, taking me back, taking me back to the doctor anytime I was in great pain, until finally one day in 6th grade they checked.
What a relief to prove to others that you weren't faking it.
What a disappointment to find out at 11 years old that you have a chronic illness, a painful and hard to explain one at that.
Since then I have had moments of great heartache because of it. Yes, intense heartache. There are several moments in my life that I felt completely robbed of. Half of my junior year of high school was spent either in the hospital with feeding tubes in my arm or sitting at home, trying to rebuild my immune system that they killed to keep the crohn's from killing me, all the while listening to my friends talk on the phone about this boy or that football game... it was hard. There were other moments like that, moments that I felt I should have had but I didn't get to, all because of this stupid illness.
At the same time, however, I have had many more moments of great happiness. I guess you really appreciate your health when you were told you wouldn't have it. But I do have it. Since 2004 (the last time I went to the hospital) I have been very strong. I have traveled and lived abroad, I went after my dream job and I got it, and then I married the man that I love and we have created a beautiful life together, most of the time Crohn's free.
Of course, there are times when it flairs up. This year has seen some of that. And it scares me. Because I know what it is like to be on prednisone, to live in the hospital, to be afraid of the bathroom and what that might mean. But I have learned something else -- I know what it is like to live, to fully live, and I will not let this stop me. It may make things more complicated at times, or really complicated at times, but I will not let it define me. As much as I can, I will control it so it doesn't control me. And then I will go out and live my life, realizing that any time it stops me for a bit does not mean it is 'robbing me' of something, but rather just postponing it.
I truly wish I had some great way to wrap this us, some inspirational 'You won't get me down!' sort of thing. But I don't. I just have this: This is a struggle, and it can be very hard. Tears are shed from time to time. Honestly though, I know it could be worse and I realize I am still very active, so I am grateful for that. I pray daily for it to be gone, and I have hope that someday it will, but until then I take my many victories as they come -- the doctor telling me how healthy my colon looks, so little scarring present (which wasn't expected), the times when I sit down in front of a hearty salad and remember all the years that I wasn't able to do that, the fact that I have such a FULL life and that I can get up and go do what I want to do -- and I celebrate. So I guess that's what I will leave you with. Celebrate the victories. Recognize them, and then celebrate. And store those away for days when you don't feel like you have any, because those days will come and you will need to find a way to get to the other side. But then when you get there, celebrate again.
Yeah, that's it. Celebrate.